Atlanta rapper, Carlos Walker a.k.a. Shawty Lo, passed away unexpectedly last month in a fatal car accident at the age of 40. As an estate planning attorney, I immediately thought about his eleven children. What plans were put in place by Walker to ensure his children were cared for in case something happened to him? It was no secret that he cared for his children during his life, but I immediately considered the estate plan that Shawty Lo might have put in place if he were my client:
1.) Avoid probate at all costs: For several reasons, I would have suggested that Shawty Lo put an estate plan in place that would avoid probate. Since he fathered 11 children by 9 different women, the probate process would not only be time consuming, but unpredictable. Creating a revocable living trust, instead of relying on a last will and testament, would avoid the court process altogether. This would be extremely important since some of his children are still minors and it would allow assets to get to beneficiaries without court intervention. Further, it would keep information about his beneficiaries and assets private, which is something they deserve.
2.) No contest clause: Because of the family dynamic, I would have suggested adding a “no contest clause” provision to the living trust. While a trust is harder to contest than a last will and testament because it is a private document, beneficiaries can still contest it. A no contest provision would disqualify a beneficiary from receiving their share if they dispute or “contest” the terms of the revocable living trust.
3.) Provide asset protection for children: Shawty Lo’s 11 children could inherit his estate in a way that would protect them from outside predators and creditors. Instead of giving outright distributions to his children that are over the age of 18 and giving distributions to the legal guardians for those that are still minors, Shawty Lo could have given distributions in trust for their benefit. Doing so would ensure that the assets left behind would be used and distributed for the benefit of his children and no one else. At some point, he could specify how and when children would start to receive outright distributions, ensuring that the money left for them would be safe as they grow and become adults themselves.
4.) Protect your legacy: I would have created an estate plan to ensure that his intellectual property would continue to benefit his children. While he was alive, it would have been a good idea to work with his entertainment attorney to appraise his intellectual property assets (ex. sound recordings) to get a clear idea of what they are worth. For artists, this is something that should be done regularly so that there are no surprises when you pass away.
5.) Communicate with his professional advisors: It’s important to have a team of professionals, and I hope that Shawty Lo did. His entertainment attorney should have worked with his estate planning attorney (and possibly a tax attorney depending on the size of the estate), to make sure that all aspects of his estate were addressed and his assets were adequately planned for and protected during life and after death.
My thoughts and prayers are with his family and I pray that the estate plan, in which I hope he had in place, was adequate enough to protect his children and legacy. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is already difficult. To add the additional heartache of dealing with the legal system when the estate planning was inadequate or non-existent can be devastating. We owe it to our loved ones to confront and discuss our own mortality while we can. Putting an estate plan in place is not something that you should continue to put off and it's an investment that is well worth it for your loved ones in the end. If you have questions or want to learn more about your options, register for one of our free workshops or call us at (404) 267-1377.