When the ‘Queen of Soul,’ Aretha Franklin, died on August 16th, she reportedly did so “intestate.” That means she died without a Will. According to documents filed in probate court in Oakland County, Michigan and confirmed by her entertainment attorney, Franklin had not done any estate planning. Her attorney suggested to her over the years that she prepare a Trust, but for some reason, she never got around to doing it.
Since there was no estate plan in place, Franklin’s estate will be one of a string of recent celebrity estates to be tied up in probate court. While the entertainer was, by all accounts, private with her financial dealings, her estate’s holdings and liabilities will now become very public information, available for inspection by anyone.
In addition to the publicity that probate court brings, it will also likely extend the time needed to settle Franklin’s estate. There will also be court fees, attorneys’ fees, publication costs, and other expenses necessary, not to mention the added hassle probate court may mean for Franklin’s loved ones. While Michigan law says that an unmarried person’s estate will pass to his or her children when there isn’t a Will provided, the probate process increases the possibility of someone else contesting the estate, claiming they are entitled to a piece of the assets. Any type of Will contest can add significant time and expense to the process.
This type of celebrity news is often shocking, but it also drives home that celebrities are human, just like everyone else. Many non-celebrities also put off their own estate planning until it’s too late.
Even if you don’t have a multi-million (or multi-billion) dollar estate, you should still meet with an estate planning attorney to discuss creating a legal strategy to pass your property and other assets according to your wishes. No matter what your goals are or what the size of your estate is, creating a Will and/or Trust can help ensure your goals are met and that your wishes are honored when you die.
To learn more and to start the estate planning process, contact us today!