But Did Aretha Franklin Need a Will?
Tragically, Aretha Franklin passed away on August 16, 2018 from pancreatic cancer. She left behind four sons but no will or estate plan. Because she did not have a will, during the court process all her assets will be made public. Aretha Franklin’s estate is estimated to be around $80 million and includes financial accounts, personal and real property, and music copyrights. The law of Michigan, where Aretha Franklin died, requires that her assets be divided equally between her four sons. While this may seem simple, it is very common when there is no will for the estate to be contested.
For example, Prince’s estate has been highly contested by the executor of his estate, Comerica Bank and Trust, and his heirs – his six siblings – over the value of his estate and how it should be divided. Prince passed away in 2016 and his $200 million estate has paid lawyers and consultants over $5.9 million while his heirs have yet to receive anything. Lawyers for three of Prince’s heirs claim that it is a “legitimate concern” whether Prince’s heirs will receive anything at all.
If Aretha Franklin had created a trust, her estate would remain private, fees would be reduced, and her heirs would receive their portion of the estate much faster.
Do I Need a Will?
Over half of Americans do not have a will. Most claim they have simply not gotten around to it and many believe that they do not own enough property to pass down.
While most Americans will not leave behind an estate as large as Aretha Franklin or Prince, a will or trust is still extremely valuable.
It is important to remember that your debts as well as your assets are included in your estate. With a will, you can dictate which debts are paid first, this could allow specific property to not be used to pay debts.
Another crucial element is guardianship of children. When there is no will, the court will appoint a guardian. The court will generally appoint the surviving spouse as guardian. However, if the spouse is unavailable the court will appoint a grandparent, and failing that, the next closest relative. With a will, you may nominate a specific guardian who you feel will be best equipped to care for your children.
One more significant factor to consider is who you want, or who you don’t want to execute your wishes. In California if you do not leave a will, your family members may petition to be the administrator of your estate. The court will appoint the petitioner as an administrator if all family members with higher priority decline to serve as an administrator. With a will, you can appoint an executor who you feel is most capable. Alternatively, you may spell out in your will who you do not want to execute your will.
There are many tangible benefits of a will, however the process of drafting a will can be complex. If you are considering a will or another form of estate planning, please contact one of the experienced attorneys at Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri. We offer free half-hour consultations.
Please remember that each individual situation is unique, and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.