Dearly beloved: Prince's death prompts uptick in wills

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In the month since Prince died and his heirs began wrangling over his estimated $300-plus million estate, many Americans have moved “draft a will” - arguably one of life’s most unpleasant tasks - to the top of their to-do lists.

U.S. musician Prince performs at the Hop Farm Festival near Paddock Wood, southern England July 3, 2011. REUTERS/Olivia Harris/File Photo

The rock star died on April 21 without a known will. Since then, (, a legal information site, saw a 24 percent spike in sales for its downloadable WillMaker service, 42 percent for its Nolo Online Will and 41 percent for its Nolo Online Living Trust service. ( experienced a 46 percent increase in overall estate planning volume after April 21, plus a 20 percent increase in requests for attorney consultations.

RocketLawyer ( saw a 57 percent increase estate planning activity.

Meanwhile, ( posted a 61 percent surge in the number of people completing a will in the three week's after Prince's death.

Prince’s relatives, meanwhile, face the expensive and time-consuming process of a state-ordered probate.

Every time a high-profile celebrity dies without a will, estate lawyers say they see a flurry of planning discussions. But the truth is that personal life events typically motivate most people to draft a will, says estate and trust attorney Brian Raftery at Herrick, Feinstein LLP in New York.

Young parents name guardians, older couples plan for passing their wealth to children or to charity, or people hear about somebody else’s bad experience with an inheritance and decide to plan smarter. Even so, only 67 percent of Americans over 55 have any sort of will, with the number plummeting to 22 percent for adults under 55, according to FindLaw, a unit of Thomson Reuters.

“People come because they want to avoid pain; we do things out of fear,” says Brooke Borg, an attorney with her own firm in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Starting the estate-planning process online is one baby step to getting the required paperwork in order.

The legal costs do not have to be prohibitive, says Stacey Decker, a financial adviser for Merrill Edge in Oak Lawn, Illinois. An estate plan, including a trust, healthcare proxy forms and power of attorney designations, can run as low as $2,000.

The process can take as little as a day. Liz Messianu, an attorney Lubell Rosen in Miami, Florida, drafted a will in one day for a traveling international client who was worried in the wake of Prince’s death. Most wills take a few weeks to complete.

Plenty of lawyers will do a free consultation to determine your needs and then can estimate the price. A simple will without a trust can cost as little as $400, says Messianu.

The cost differential of drafting a will versus going through probate can be staggering. “If I told you, you’d fall off your chair,” adds Messianu, who has seen probate costs balloon past $50,000 for an estate of $1 million.

Editing by Lauren Young and Cynthia Osterman