AVICII DIED WITHOUT A WILL BUT ILLUSTRATED AN IMPORTANT LESSON
Unless you’re under the age of 35 or a fan of electronic dance music, you may have never heard of the Swedish musician, super DJ, and music producer, Avicii, although you likely heard his most popular song, “Wake Me Up,” playing at one point or another.
Avicii, whose real name was Tim Bergling, reached almost absurd levels of fame, success, wealth and adoration. Sadly, his success came a heavy cost of anxiety, depression, heavy alcoholism, and ultimately suicide. He was only 28 when he died from self-inflicted wounds from broken glass on April 20, 2018.
The Grammy-nominated artist enjoyed great financial success, regularly earning tens of millions of dollars per year and landing on many of Forbes highest earning lists, especially during his peak from 2014 through 2016. Celebrity Net Worth reported his net worth when he died to be around $50 million. His Hollywood Hills mansion sold for $17.5 million earlier this year. He signed lucrative endorsement deals with Volvo and Ralph Lauren.
Yet Avicii was never motivated by money. He said during an interview in 2013, “I discovered when I started making money that I didn’t really need it.” Instead, he turned towards charitable goals, saying, “When you have such an excess of money you don’t need, the most sensible, most human and completely obvious thing is to give to people in need.”
These weren’t just words to the famous DJ. In 2012, he embarked on a tour called “House for Hunger” and donated all of his income from the tour to the charity, Feeding America, to combat hunger. He added another $1 million afterwards, along with an additional one million euros to a Swedish “hunger aid” charity a year later. And these were just some of the publicly-reported gifts.
Given his wealth and how charitably-inclined Avicii was, it is surprising that he died without a will. Despite his young age of 28, Avicii could have followed suit of many other celebrity estate plans and used an estate plan to benefit charitable causes, like Mark Zuckerberg, Hugh Hefner, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Leona Helmsley. Instead, under the probate laws of Sweden, his parents inherit all of his wealth. Avicii was not married and had no children.
Is this want Avicii would have wanted? Perhaps. But given his charitable track record, it’s likely he would have preferred at least some of his fortune to combat hunger or advance other worthy causes. He also had two brothers and a sister that he may have wanted to provide for.
By not making out even a simple will before he died, his wishes for what happens with his fortune no longer matter, legally. Rather, his assets pass to his parents. The intestate laws of Sweden do not include siblings (because his parents are alive) or charities, even though Avicii may have wanted to include them.
What about taxes? Because Sweden does not have an estate or inheritance tax, Avicii’s parents will not have to pay a large tax bill, unlike if Avicii had been a United States citizen. But because he lived in California, his U.S. assets – including the Hollywood Hills home – may be subject to estate taxes. Any such taxes could have been minimized by good estate planning, especially considering Avicii’s charitable nature.
And therein lies the lesson. It doesn’t matter that Avicii was only 28 years old. No one is promised tomorrow. It’s not only “old” people that die. Anyone with assets should take the time to plan for what happens if they should die.
Estate planning often starts with a basic will, and for most twenty-somethings, that should be enough. People with greater wealth – even a small fraction of what Avicii earned – should work with an experienced estate planning attorney and create a revocable living trust, or use other more sophisticated planning measures.
Whether you want to leave money to charity, your parents, or anyone else, don’t want until “someday” to make out a will. Learn a lesson from Avicii’s mistake.
Danielle and Andy Mayoras are co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, television hosts and keynote speakers. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Be sure to check out their new TV show, Fortune Fights, on the REELZ channel.
[photo credit: Flickr]