What happens when our will to love turns into the "will" we must leave?
This weekend it was revealed that the $100 million estate of late-musician David Bowie would go to his wife of 27 years, Iman, children Duncan and Alexandria, and a few friends of kin. The agreement in his 20-page will stated:
- Widow Iman Abdulmajid will receive half of Bowie's estate as well as his penthouse in Manhattan
- Children Duncan, 44, (from Bowie's first marriage to wife Angie) and Alexandria, 15, (from Bowie and Iman's marriage) will receive a quarter a piece of his estate, with Bowie also leaving a vacation home for Alexandria in upstate New York.
- Bowie's long-time personal assistant, Corrine 'Coco' Schwab will receive $2 million and stock in a company called 'Opossum,'
- And lastly, Duncan's former nanny, Marion Skene, will receive $1 million
When the news of Bowie's will went public, reactions varied. Although the split was majority aka 50% to Iman and the other 50% split at 25% a piece to kids Duncan and Alexandria, some questioned why would Iman receive an entire half of the money for herself. Others asked what did the late Bowie leave for first wife, Angie, whom rockstar had been married to in his early 20's-30's between the years of 1970-1980.
Others positively honed in on Bowie's generosity to leave his personal assistant, Coco, $2 million cash along with stock, as well as his eldest child and son's former nanny, Marion Skene, a hefty million.
For the most part, many whom supported Bowie's disbursement to Iman also defended the decision with the same sentiment as myself, which was that Iman's share was a no-brainer and aside from the actual large dollar amount, was hardly news worthy at all. After all, Mrs. Iman Bowie was David's wife of over 26 years and until death literally did them part.
A few fan reactions to some of the scrutiny, went as follows:
"How the hell is anyone gonna be mad at this man for leaving his WIFE his money? Have a damn seat, sh*t!"
"Why are people mad?They were married for 27 years. The wife, even before the children, is legally entitled. That's in any case and whatever size the estate is. The **** they wanted him to do with them funds?"
"She is/was his wife and they have a child together. He did the dutiful and loving thing."
"Why is this a shock to people? She was his wife for over 20 years. Who else was he going to leave it to?"
"Morally, who else would this money go to?"
According to most state laws, even without a "will," the division and distribution of one's estate is governed by a statute known as "intestate law," a law that protects those without a will. As it goes:
"If you are survived by a spouse and children, your estate is usually divided between your spouse and children. If you have only children (or grandchildren), the estate is divided among your children (and grandchildren). If you have neither spouse, children, nor grandchildren, the estate is distributed to your parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, or cousins, depending on who survives you."
So in short, the late and great David Bowie hardly did anything that wouldn't have already been done by the law had he designated a will or not. If anything, the many pros and benefits of having a will is the clear distribution of your funds amongst beneficiaries outside of your family, (i.e.: nannies and assistants and trusted guardians). Without a will, these types of allocations would not happen.
When I first read people's reactions and the debate over Bowie's estate, it was a reminder that other people's money tends to make folks real emotional. However, is there really any ideal way to leave money behind for a child, husband or wife after life?
In the world of the rich and famous, fans and followers tend to get very vocal about marriage and money. Kevin Hart recently spoke about he and his fiancée Eniko Parrish (set to wed this August), agreeing to sign to a pre-nup. The 36-year-old comedian pointed out that Eniko, whom he's been with for seven years, understands the importance of Kevin's estate when it comes to his family and children:
"If you don't [sign a pre-nup], you're stupid! That's not even an issue with her and I. When I say I got a good one, I got a good one. A logical, thinking woman. Do you understand how hard that is? To get a woman that can think on a logistic, reality term, not just emotional level. We have great conversations and understanding moments where she gets my platform and where I am and where I came from and what is at stake and what I'm protecting."
Many people considered Kevin's decision to not leave his fortune at the risk of his fiancé in the event that a divorce happens to be wise, considering that they are still early in their relationship. However, will the conversation be different when the couple of seven years is now the couple of 27 years? Much like Iman, who was Bowie's second and longest withstanding wife, would Eniko's entitlement to Kevin's estate make a difference after time, and possibly a child, is factored in?
To this day, some people still give flack to Kevin for divorcing his first wife and mother of his children, Torrei, since he and Torrei married before Kevin's acquired celebrity status. Yet, much like Bowie's first marriage, Kev wed at the tender young age of 22, to which he admits he was too young to know how to handle or honor the sanctity of said matrimony. God forbid, if something were to happen to Kevin early into his second union, and by law, the majority of his fortune goes to his new wife Eniko, would fans be as supportive and understanding to this distribution as they are Bowie and Iman? Or does the lack of time invested into their (future) marriage create a debate on who has the rights to his estate?
Although clearly a pre-nup and a will are two different things, it does bring into question the idea of entitlement and what makes us deserving of our partner's property? Do you have to be "shooting in the gym" or is it enough to simply put your love and time in (both of which are priceless!)
At the time of the late Whitney Houston's death, although she'd only had one husband in her lifetime, and was married to ex Bobby Brown for a total of 15 years, they were divorced at the time of her death and her 20 million dollar estate was rightfully given to her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, in the following disbursement:
- At 21- Bobbi Kristina was to receive 10 percent (roughly $2 million)
- At 25- Another $3 million
- At 30- the remaining $15 million.
Unfortunately, since Bobbi Kristina's untimely death at the tender age of only 22-years-old, there has been much debate to the rest of Whitney's estate, with some lawyers believing that, as the rules of non-will holders go (and in young Bobbi's case, she had not created a will for herself), her next of kin, father Bobby Brown) could likely inherent the remainder of this money. Another possibility is the honoring of the remainder of Whitney's will, which advises that an amicable division be devised between Bobby Brown and Whitney's siblings. A tricky loophole, seeing as to how technically, even though they were divorced, Bobby Brown now gets what was once "hers."
And considering the ongoing controversy surrounding Whitney's own family's incessant fight over their rights to her money, some feel it may be best that Brown, who held his ex-wife down for years, got awarded the funds (editor's note: these funds exclude Whitney's mother Cissy's own entitlement to all of Whitney's jewelry and an undisclosed amount of money).
Most policy holders and will preparers advise that on average, one should revisit and adjust their will as needed every 5 to 10 years. Most often this is the case for those with children, and as a way to monitor the growing child/young adult's responsibility with money, and if necessary add certain restrictions if needed.
As the saying goes, "More money, more problems." But no matter how much of our lives we invest in making the green, we can't take it with us when we leave. So who is to say what we do with our money is right or wrong once we're gone?
How do you feel about spousal entitlement with wills?