ARETHA FRANKLIN DIDN’T HAVE AN ESTATE PLAN
Legendary singer Aretha Franklin died on August 16, 2018. She was 76 years old and apparently died without an estate plan.
As an estate plan lawyer O’Fallon, I am surprised that Franklin, worth an estimated $80 million at her death, did not have her affairs in order. Federal estate taxes will likely be incurred and the IRS will likely audit the estate because of the value.
The estates of celebrities can often result in years long court battles in the state where they died, among family members and non-family members alike. I previously wrote about this type of mess with the estate of Prince, who passed away in April 2016. His $200 million estate, over two years later, is still not settled and has been described simply as “a mess”.
Franklin died intestate (without a will) in Michigan, so the laws of that state will control. She was survived by four sons, all between the ages of 48 and 63. Under Michigan law, each of her sons should received a ¼ interest in her estate, or about $20 million. However, these figures are subject to reduction as creditors come out of the woodwork to make claims against her estate. Whether these claims are legitimate have to be resolved by the probate court and probate attorneys near me. This can result in attorney fees growing and growing, as well as the basis costs of litigating these claims eating up the value of the estate.
Apparently Franklin had been advised many times by her lawyers to create an estate plan, but never did so. “She never told me “No, I don’t want to do one. She understood the need. It just didn’t seem to be something she got around to” said Don Wilson, a Franklin lawyer for almost three decades.
This lack of follow through with creating a will is not uncommon. As a will trust lawyer St. Peters, I often meet with people who state that they knew that they needed to get their affairs in order, but can’t explain what took so long.
My opinion has always been that because it’s not pleasant to think about, many people put off getting an estate plan together as long as possible. Others are the exact opposite. I’ve found that younger people, particularly new parents are very proactive about creating powers of attorney, naming guardians in their wills, a trust for young children and other documents to protect their family.
The other phenomenon I see though is that people learn from the mistakes of their own family. The loss of a parent or a sibling and the mess that ensued with their estate can be a huge influence in someone getting their affairs together to avoid the same headache for their children.