Why do I need a will? Estate of Tupac Shakur

Why do I need a will in NY?

As a NYC estate lawyer I am never surprised to learn of the passing of a celebrity who died without a will.  When we pass without a NYC will it is called intestacy.  Rather than our NY estates going through the streamlined probate process within the New York Surrogate’s Courts the intestate estate must go through administration.  Administration is a much longer, more difficult process which can also prove to be costlier.  In NYC estates administration requires a court’s determination as to the identity of the deceased’s heirs.  The Surrogate’s Court must then determine which of the heirs would be eligible to serve as the estate’s fiduciary, also called the administrator.  Sometimes, when the heirs themselves are either ineligible to serve based on various qualifications or cannot agree who will serve amongst themselves, the court may then appoint a third party to administer the NYC estate.  Absent a will, the Surrogate’s Courts of New York may also require the administrator to post a bond for the estate assets which is an insurance policy against any theft or loss.  With a will the filing of a bond is almost always waived, but without a NY will the Court will require the fiduciary to have good credit for the posting of their bond.

Another consideration regarding the NY estate law has to do with the most recent 2019 revisions.  Interestingly, in 2014 the NY estate tax exemption was scheduled to match the federal estate tax exemption amounts this coming year.  Unfortunately, those federal exemptions in 2014 were only $5,600,000.00 per individual and $11,200,000.00 for married couples.  Nonetheless, with the most recent tax reform act of 2018 the federal estate tax exemptions ballooned to $11 million per individual and $22 million for married couples.  This means at the federal level, unless your estate assets exceed these inflated levels you have no federal estate tax liability.  But for NYS residents, NYS’s estate tax exemptions will only be $5,600,000.00 for individuals and $11,200,000.00 for married couples this upcoming year rather than the more elevated levels.

While the differences between the $5,600,000.00 state and $11 million dollar federal exemptions will likely only affect a small group of residents with that degree of wealth, it will be highly problematic for those caught off guard.  Additionally, unlike the federal estate tax, New York State makes no provisions for portability requiring the assistance of some NYC estate planning from an experienced NYC estate lawyer to take advantage of the full NYS estate tax exemption for marital couples.  In plain English, just because you are married, that does not mean you automatically get to pass $11,200,000.00 of inheritance to your heirs under the NYC estate tax exemptions.  Had the NYS legislature included portability in their tax bill this would be the case but the legislature in Albany purposefully did not.  So this is where some NY estate tax planning is required.  Again, more reasons to enlist the assistance of an experienced NYC estate lawyer to prepare your NY wills.

Estate of Tupac Shakur

Tupac Shakur was one of the most prolific artists of both the 20th and 21st centuries.  Which is odd, because Tupac was fatally shot in a shooting while sitting at a stop light with his manager Suge Knight on the Las Vegas strip on September 7, 1996 after watching the Mike Tyson fight.  Had the 25-year-old Shakur lived I cannot help but wonder the size of the body of work that he would have ultimately created.  By September of 1996, the 25-year-old artist had already generated over $60 million dollars in record sales during the span of his short career, not to mention starring in several blockbuster movies.  But that is just a drop in the bucket compared to what the Estate of Tupac Shakur has grossed since his 1996 murder.  It is estimated that since Tupac’s death his estate has released 21 different albums and collaborations generating more than 75 million record sales.

Obviously at age 25, Tupac Shakur was understandably not thinking about the planning of his estate with an estate lawyer when he passed away without a will.  At the time of his murder Tupac was neither married nor had children.  As such, Tupac Shakur’s only next of kin proved to be his mother, Afeni Shakur who both raised her son as a single parent and whom she was very close with.   Unfortunately, it was not very long before Tupac’s biological yet estranged father, Billy Garland attempted to fight for his half of The Tupac Shakur Estate.  Any NYC estate lawyer can tell you absent a will the estate is up for grabs.

NY, California and most other states have laws prohibiting estranged parents from inheriting proceeds from estates of their offspring.  For instance, pursuant to the NYC estate law a parent who fails to provide child support or who abandons the child in failing to supervise the child’s development is precluded from any parental rights of inheritance from that child’s NYC estate.   Therefore, in order for a parent to inherit from their child’s NYC estate there must be evidence of both financial support and regular and meaningful interaction with the child.  As a NYC estate lawyer this is an emotionally charged issue that comes up from time to time.  In Tupac’s estate his father Billy Garland’s extent of child support and meaningful interaction consisted of $750.00, a movie ticket stub and a bag of peanuts.

As such, the Court denied Mr. Garland’s application for his share of his son’s estate and instead granted Afeni Shakur control over her son’s estate and its contents.  Interestingly, Afeni Shekur still settled the matter with Mr. Garland, paying the father $950,000.00 so that Billy Garland could no longer refer to himself as the father of Tupac Shakur or use Tupac’s name or likeness in any manner.

While Afeni Shakur passed away in 2016 the Estate of Tupac Shakur, now controlled by media executives, is still currently valued in excess of $40 million dollars.  For many, the reality of coming to terms with our own mortality at any age is a difficult process that we can easily put out of our minds.  But ignoring our mortality does not make our existence any less finite.  Especially for New Yorkers whose estates exceed $5,600,000.00, a NYC estate lawyer drafted and supervised will is a necessity.  Absent NYC estate planning there are no ways to exercise any control over our estates after we are gone.

Should you or a loved one wish to speak with a NYC estate lawyer about planning their estate, feel free to call us at (718) 261-2444 to speak with an experienced estate lawyer for a free consultation.  Our offices have been successfully probating NY estates and drafting wills for New Yorkers in the Counties of New York, Queens, Nassau, Suffolk, Bronx, Richmond, Westchester, Orange, Rockland and Dutchess for more than 50 years.


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