A Popular Celebrity recently died without a will and now her $80 million estate is in public view

September 2018 Newsletter

Aretha Franklin died without a will and now her $80 million estate is in probate court

When legendary singer Aretha Franklin died of advanced pancreatic cancer last month at age 76, she did not have a will or trust, according to documents filed in Oakland County Probate Court. And now the $80 million estate of the intensely private Queen of Soul is about to become very public – and possibly very taxing for her heirs.

Wills Are for Everyone

Figuring out how to divide your estate is a very personal matter. How you allocate your assets among your heirs is very important on both a financial and an emotional level. This even affects items of sentimental value.

Not all distributions of assets are so simple. But they all tap into human emotion. If you care about how your heirs will react to the unveiling of the will, even if you aren’t around to witness it, think about what the impact will be on loved ones.

There also can be an emotional toll on you when you frame your will. Some people have trouble with doing one, as it reminds them of their own mortality. Some even think they are tempting fate by creating a will. Planning for what happens after you are gone is difficult enough, but a lack of planning is even worse.

Wills Help Avoid Probate Court

More than half of all decedents die without a will, which means the distribution of assets will occur based on state law. In most cases this isn’t what you want. In addition to handing your descendants a legal hassle, failing to have a will ensures that your wishes aren’t carried out.

Let’s say that now you are finished with the attorney and have a will. Are you really done?  Yes, for some, but for others, absolutely not. What else could be left?

Remember that an estate plan is an intimate subject. Have you thought about sitting down with the kids and making sure they understand all that you have done? No, you don’t have to go into all of the intimate details of your personal finances, but give them a high-level overview of your personal wishes for final arrangements and an explanation in general terms of what will happen.

Are you the owner of a closely held business in which one child is involved and others are not? Do you have a succession plan?  Do you decide to leave their assets in a trust, rather than outright?

Are you excluding a child or perhaps favoring others? What about the child that is taking care of you in your later years: Do the other children appreciate how you might treat the caretaker differently? Maybe you want to give it all to charity; will the kids understand? What about a child with special needs?  The list of considerations is expansive.

You’ll need to work with a trusted attorney to create appropriate documents.  Additionally, talk with other successful investors about how they created their wills and trust structures.  These discussions today help you and your family to be more comfortable about your wishes for how you would like your wealth to be handled.