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Amy Winehouse's Death Illustrates the Importance of a Will

Last Updated: 7/29/11

Amy Winehouse had many ups and downs during her short life, but it appears the singer/songwriter left behind an up-to-date and ironclad estate plan. Winehouse's tragic death at age 27 illustrates why you are never too young for a will.

Winehouse and Blake Fielder-Civil were married briefly. Under English law, marriage negates any wills made before the marriage, but if a couple divorces and there is no new will, the ex-spouse is the favored beneficiary. Fortunately, Winehouse reportedly updated her will to ensure that Fielder-Civil, who is currently in jail for burglary and possession of an imitation firearm, would not inherit any of her estate. Under Winehouse's will her fortune, estimated at $16 million, will go to her divorced parents and her brother.

In the United States, if you die without a will, the state dictates who will inherit from you. If you are married, most states award one-third to one-half of your estate to your spouse, with the rest divided among your children or, if you don't have children, to other living relatives such as your parents or siblings. If you are single, most states provide that your estate will go to your children or to other living relatives if you don't have children. If you have absolutely no living relatives, then your estate will go to the state.

If you have accumulated some assets (it doesn't have to be Winehouse's millions) or have young children that will need a guardian, then it is time to start thinking about an estate plan. Planning your estate with a will or trust is the best way to ensure your estate is distributed the way you want it to. To talk with an elder law attorney who can help you devise the best plan, please email the Elder Law Center or call 630-844-0065. The Elder Law Center is located in Aurora, IL, Kane County, in the Chicago Western Suburbs.