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Lou Reed's will left everything open to the public

It's not pleasant to think about our own demise; however, estate planning is something that everyone should do. When people don't determine which assets go to their heirs, the courts will do the honors. If you have a will, though, it will go through the probate process. This can be expensive and time-consuming. In addition, the probate process is public, meaning that the contents of the will can be seen by anyone.

A good example of this is the probate process for singer Lou Reed's will. He passed away at 71 in October 2013 from liver disease. His estate is worth at least $30 million. The Manhattan Surrogate's Court in New York has had paperwork filed that shows that the former lead singer of The Velvet Underground's estate has already earned more than $20 million since his death. That income is from royalties, copyrights and other deals that are in place.

There are two executors for Reed's estate. The fees the two have asked for are rather modest -- only $220,000. According to Reed's 34-page will that is now public information, his wife and sister will receive about $10 million. Another half-million will go to Reed's sister to use for the care of their mother, who is 93.

Reed's wife, Laurie Anderson, will get about $9 million in New York real estate and personal property. Anything left over will be split between his wife and his sister. Anderson will get 75 percent and his sister will receive 25 percent.

Reed signed this will back in 2012. If he had used a revocable living trust, this information would not have been public knowledge. This lesson is one that everyone can take to heart. By using a revocable living trust -- even if you don't have assets that in the millions -- your heirs can be saved a lot of time and headaches, and your final affairs will be kept private. If you need help with your Michigan estate planning, the advice of an experienced attorney can prove very helpful.

Source: Forbes, "Lou Reed Walked On The Wild Side With His Estate Planning", Daniella and Andy Mayoras, July 10, 2014

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