New Jersey residents who are starting to think about how their assets will be passed along after they die should take inspiration from the careful estate planning achieved by the late singer and songwriter David Bowie. He died from liver cancer on his 69th birthday two days after the release of his final album, "Blackstar."
Estimates place his fortune in the neighborhood of $200 million, but the design of his estate plan will keep the details of his financial legacy private. With the help of an investment banker, Bowie began in 1997 to create financial vehicles to preserve and enhance his estate. He took a radical new approach beyond the typical licensing of music rights. His works were packaged into bonds that Bowie sold for $55 million to Prudential Life Insurance Co. The bonds represented 10-year investments that paid a fixed-rate of 7.9 percent. His royalties and other copyright revenues backed the payments and provided Prudential with a complete payoff within the 10-year time frame.
This move insulated him from the significant changes that swept the music industry as the Internet undermined traditional sources of music revenue. In a recent interview, Bowie's investment banker said that the artist took these financial steps to provide for his family. Although the details of his estate plan remain private, experts suggest that he likely used trusts to privately convey assets to his wife and children.
A person who wants to learn more about estate planning could discuss options for protecting assets from taxes or public exposure with an attorney. In addition to wills and trusts, an estate plan could include documents like medical directives, powers of attorney or living wills. Such documents could cover situations when the person loses the capacity to make decisions. These documents would then assign decisions about finances or medical care to another party.