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Now that José José has passed away, maybe many of you, as me, have been remembering many of his songs that we grew up with, starting with La Nave del Olvido, and El Triste. The latter would be the song that firmly shot him into stardom, as well as many others like Lo Pasado, Pasado, Gavilán o Paloma, Payaso, etc., etc., etc. I remember the endless afternoons that I would spend with friends listening to his songs, among many others, but his were especially apt to change the lyrics and their message.

I specifically remember when I got to see him in person in Reynosa, Tamaulipas when I was courting Maria Elia in the late 80s. Back then, he was going through one of his many personal crises that he was two hours late for his show. Also, when the news of his death was made public, Maria Elia reminded me that some in her family had a personal connection to the Príncipe de la Canción.

Today, whenever a person we know dies, or even when a famous person dies, I ask myself what will become of his family. I’m curious at a personal level, but also at a professional level, because the latter has given me the expertise by having seen all kinds of consequences that are left behind by those that have planned prior to leaving this world, as well as the consequences for planning inadequately, and worse, for not having planned at all.

From what has been in the news so far, I can almost assure you that José José was one who did not plan at all. I say this because some of his children were not with him when he died, they say that they are not sure he died, did not know to which funeral home his body had been taken to, etc. These circumstances would not have occurred had he left all of his affairs in order.

Three Reasons Why José José Needed an International Estate Plan

  1. In the first place, he needed an estate plan as a foreigner living in Florida to try to avoid the impact of the federal state tax in the United States. According to published data, José José’s net worth at the time of his death reached $5 Million dollars. For its part, some media outlets reported that he was living in Miami with his wife, Sara Salazar, and his three daughters. Others have said that he was practically forcibly taken to Miami by his youngest daughter.

Regardless of what the truth is, the fact remains that as a foreigner, at a minimum, all of his assets located in the United States would be subject to the estate tax at a rate of 40%, with only an exemption of $60,000 dollars. A good estate plan would have allowed him to exempt all of his assets from the estate tax. Alternatively, a life insurance policy with enough death benefit could have been an option to pay for the estate taxes which will be due on Monday June 29, 2020 because June 28 will be a Sunday. However, with all his health-related afflictions, this alternative would have been unlikely.

  1. The second reason is that he had two ex-wives and one wife, as well as three children with two of them. A will and a living trust would have avoided probate and the infighting that the singer’s children are starring in right before us and the media from the moment his death was announced. Perhaps this fighting can be intentional since it appears that all the children are in the entertainment business. A will, but especially a living trust, could have helped him control, not only who would receive what, but also the way that all the copyrights over his songs would be used and managed in the future. Especially, to try to prevent his family from going through the economic crises he went through himself. Some of you may remember the rumors that he at some point was living in a taxi in Mexico City.
  2. Lastly, and under the best-case scenario, José José died with a net worth of $5 Million dollars that, together with the copyrights over his songs, which must be worth some multiple of the mentioned amount in future earnings, will be the apple of discord between the family members, as well as the bait for the IRS to investigate the circumstances—I do not mean medical—under which the singer died.

This is because the biggest problem I see in the near future, which is the most severe, is if there are external factors that could determine that José José established a domicile in the United States before he died. If this is the case, then all of the singer’s assets that he owned in Mexico will also be subject to estate tax in the U.S. The biggest risk is, of course, for those copyrights. I don’t know their value, but I suspect it could be substantial.

Although we do not always know everyone, least of all the artists and the famous, I have the impression that the so-called Príncipe de la Canción would do things differently if he could start over. Rest in Peace, José José!

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