Tragically, the Queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, passed last week without a valid last will and testament likely sowing the seeds for confusion on how her reported 88 million dollar estate will be settled. While the laws of intestate succession in that state of Michigan, where Franklin died, state that the singer’s four children will share her estate equally, nothing is a certainty once you enter the probate court. As is often the case when some like Aretha Franklin dies without a will their family will likely be forced to endure a long, public probate court process to settle her estate.
A last will and testament provides an important set of instructions on how an individual would like their assets distributed after their death. “It’s not surprising the Queen of Soul might not have a will,” said Peter Antonoplos an estate planning attorney with Antonoplos & Associates, “often it’s the case with a larger than life personality that making a will is a hard decision, something that makes them reflect on their own mortality and so they avoid it until its too late.”
Unfortunately for Aretha Franklin’s family her passing away without a will, means that her estate will be probate as an intestate estate in Michigan. Composed of a large music catalog, real estate, business interests and other assets, the potential for a challenge to her estate is very likely. As Antonoplos put it, “with managers, business partners, family, friends, and hangers-on, there are a lot of people who might try to challenge the probate process with their own version of events. A lot of this could have been avoided if she had simply prepared a last will to spell out how she would have liked her estate to be distributed.
”Creating a last will and testament is the best way to ensure that your assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes. Your last will gives you the power to decide how you would like your most precious assets to be distributed.
If you own a business or hold other investments, your will can facilitate the smooth transition of those assets to the ones you love. A valid last will and testament may also provide for friends, charitable and religious organizations, and academic institutions that would not otherwise inherit from you under your state’s intestacy laws. The critical concept is the choice is yours. If you do not have a valid will, your states probate court will apply local intestacy laws to determine who should receive your property. This can result in wasted time, money, and costly court fights.