Taylor Swift is Not an Estate Planning Expert
Singers are often inspired by their personal experiences when writing or choosing their material. This includes expressing their thoughts about estate planning and why it might be important to them.
Whether it is Beyonce’s husband Jay-Z rapping about designating some of his assets to creative a positive impact in the world, The Beatles advice for avoiding estate taxes, Taylor Swift singing about disinheriting her family in “Anti-Hero," or Bruce Springsteen selling rights to his music catalog to make it easier for his estate, estate planning has a place in our music culture.
However, while there may appear to be lessons about estate planning in song lyrics from your favorite artists, this does not mean they should be considered legitimate – or accurate – advice. Here are the facts behind some of the estate and inheritance laws Swift references in her song lyrics.
A Murderer Cannot Inherit Their Victim’s Assets
“I have this dream my daughter-in-law kills me for the money / She thinks I left them in the will.”
As one of the world’s most successful pop-stars, Swift would be wise to be concerned about those who might want access to her estate. However, many states have some form of what is commonly referred to as the Slayer Statute, or Slayer Rule, which says that a murderer cannot inherit anything from their victim’s estate. By committing the act of murder, the individual is essentially disclaiming their property interest. The statute is in place to deter individuals from murdering family members or spouses for their inheritance. However, the rule does not apply to someone who was determined to have killed by accident or self-defense.
In addition, in-laws do not benefit from your estate unless provisions are made for them in a will or trust. Inheritances are not marital property, but separate property going to the beneficiary. Therefore, a mother could give money to her son, and the daughter-in-law could not claim it in a divorce settlement. However, if the son puts the inheritance money in a joint account with his spouse, then that inheritance becomes marital property. When the son dies, his inheritance (including separate property) passes to his spouse and children.
If you do not want your son or daughter-in-law to inherit your estate, consider drafting your will so that a portion (or all) of your estate goes directly to your grandchildren.
It is Not Enough to Leave Someone Out of a Will
“The family gathers 'round and reads it / And then someone screams out / 'She's laughing up at us from hell!'"
Leaving someone out of your will is not the wisest way to disinherit them, as the person may claim they were omitted by mistake. To ensure that someone is excluded from your will, it is best to intentionally add a disinheritance clause that mentions them by name. Avoid referencing specific reasons for not including them, as these could be misinterpreted or subject to dispute.
In the scenario Swift describes, while it is commendable that she took steps to disinherit someone from her will, it may not have been necessary. If a future family member were to kill the singer, the Slayer Rule would prohibit them from inheriting any of her assets.
Although it may not be advisable to rely on song lyrics for estate planning tips, it is admirable that popular songs emphasize the importance of creating a comprehensive estate plan. Putting a plan in place – regardless of your age or net worth – is the ideal opportunity to make personal decisions concerning your assets, finances and health care. It will ensure your final wishes are honored and your loved ones are provided for, as well as help avoid disputes, conflicts, and court costs.
Whether you need to revise an existing will or create an estate plan from scratch, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 973.707.3322 or LFarber@LFarberLaw.com.
The contents of this writing are intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion in any specific facts or circumstances.