Earlier this year, Aretha Franklin joined the lengthy list of celebrities to die without a will.
The list includes icons such as Michael Jackson, Prince, Martin Luther King, Jr., Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Tupac, Heath Ledger, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Sonny Bono, Barry White – just to name a few.
If you happened to watch the American Music Awards recently, it is obvious that the singer’s legacy will continue to live on for many years to come.
So too, unfortunately, will settling her estate.
Aretha Franklin left a reported $80 million estate. That’s EIGHTY MILLION DOLLARS, folks.
What’s the reason for the lack of planning by the Queen of Soul, you might ask?
The legend’s attorney affirms that Franklin understood the need. “It just didn’t seem to be something she got around to.”
According to the AARP, the top two reasons people give for not having an estate plan in place: They “hadn’t gotten around to it” (47 percent), and they “don’t have enough assets to leave to anyone” (29 percent).
When you die without a will (also called dying “intestate”), the court in your state of residence will determine how your assets are distributed and the process of settling an estate becomes much more complicated.
As a result, the State of Michigan’s intestacy laws will apply and Franklin’s four sons will divide their mother’s assets equally.
Since no one was formally appointed in a will, interested persons can nominate themselves to be the personal representative of the estate (the person who will be tasked with handling the estate - identifying assets, paying outstanding bills, among other things).
You can bet there will be more than a few willing candidates for the job.
Further complicating the matter, Franklin’s eldest son has special needs and is represented by a legal guardian.
Had Ms. Franklin had a Will in place, she could have provided for a special needs trust to care for her son for his lifetime. A Special Needs Trust allows for the beneficiary to enjoy the use of property that is held in the trust for his or her benefit, while at the same time allowing for the beneficiary to continue to receive essential needs-based government benefits.
You need only look to Prince’s estate (he died in April 2016 and his heirs have yet to receive anything from his estate because it is still being valued – and that’s just one of the many reasons for the delay) to realize the benefit of a little preplanning.
While you may not be in quite the financial posture as the Queen of Soul, by executing at least a simple will and updating the beneficiaries of your financial accounts, you direct to whom your assets will be distributed upon your death rather than leaving it up to the courts to decide.
Establishing a Family Succession Plan will help carry out your wishes, save your family money, reduce family drama, and generally simplify and expedite the process for your loved ones during an already emotional and stressful time.
If you are a Florida resident, we can assist you with your planning during your Family Succession Strategy Session which you can book online here. We offer both in office and web conferences for your convenience.
Amanda “Rocking Out to the Queen of Soul” Lynch Elliott