On August 16, Aretha Franklin passed away in her home after a long, private battle with pancreatic cancer. The Queen of Soul died without having a will or trust in place. Now her family must wrestle with not only their grief, but also the lengthy, complicated and expensive process of probate. Take this news as an important reminder to think about estate planning. Probate is the court-supervised process of gathering a deceased person’s assets and distributing them to creditors and inheritors.
How Often Do You Think about Estate Planning?
Franklin’s exact net worth is unknown, but it is estimated at roughly $80 million and includes the rights to many of her hit songs, according to Wealth Management Magazine. The complete lack of estate planning on Franklin’s part will likely result in the federal government taking a huge tax bite out of that figure, leaving less inheritance to her four sons. At the moment, there are no indications that any of Franklin’s heirs are in conflict regarding next steps. Unfortunately, without documented instructions for distribution of her estate, that could easily change.
When music legend Prince died two years ago, he also left behind no will or plan for what should happen to his $500 million estate. In addition, it was unclear who had control of his royalty rights and his unreleased music. Both performers led deeply private lives. Yet, without a will or trust in place, each of their estates now can and will be laid bare for all to see.
Everyone needs a will. The legal document expedites the settlement of an estate, keeps proceedings from going to probate, and helps keep private matters private. This is true regardless of the size or scope of your estate, legacy or fame.