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Surprise! Unexpected beneficiary claims complicate estate matters

Many surprises can come up when a person passes away without a will. This can be particularly true when there are also significant assets involved. While some of these surprises may be considered good if they work in your favor, there are surprises that only make things more complicated.

One case that highlights this point is the case involving iconic entertainer Prince's estate. Reports indicate that no will has been located, which means it is up to the administrators of his estate to gather information on Prince's assets, finances and heirs. The fact that he may not have had a will was a surprise to begin with; but now more people are coming into the fold by claiming they are heirs to his estate.

So far, at least two people have claimed to be heirs including a man claiming to own Prince's intellectual property and a woman whose relationship to Prince has yet to be reported.

As noted in this USA Today article, there will likely be more people coming forward to try and stake a claim in the singer's estate. It is possible that people claiming to be former business associates, religious partners, children Prince never knew he had and other family members could try to argue they are potential beneficiaries.

Each time this happens, the administrator of the estate -- in this case a bank -- needs to evaluate the legitimacy of the claim and decide whether or not to try and have the courts officially dismiss the claim. It is a complicated, frustrating and time-consuming aspect of figuring out who is and is not an eligible heir.

Whether claims turn out to be valid or not, the fact is the probate process can be drawn out and become far more complex when there are multiple people coming out of the woodwork claiming to be beneficiaries.

It should also be mentioned that unexpected beneficiaries could significantly affect efforts to settle the estate and create some emotional turmoil that did not exist before.

Even though most people will not be dealing with an estate as enormous and sophisticated as Prince's, there could still be assets and money on the line when a person passes away without a will. Considering how intricate and thorny these situations can be, it will be crucial for confirmed and potential beneficiaries alike to have legal representation in order to avoid and/or deal with surprises that come up along the way.

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