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I-N-T-E-S-T-A-T-E … Find out what it means to me
By Trusts & Estates Practice Group on August 22, 2018 at 3:50 PM

Aretha Franklin singing on January 20, 2009Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, died Aug. 16, 2018. Within days, her four sons filed court documents alleging that she died without a will or trust. If the court filing is confirmed and no will or trust is found, her estate will be considered “intestate.” In other words, Franklin gave no indication as to how her assets should be distributed when she died and the matter will need to be resolved under state law.

The value of Franklin’s estate is not known, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it is significant. The legendary singer is believed to have passed away owning the rights to her original compositions, including the classic “Think.” It’s likely we will eventually know her estate’s value since, in most circumstances, the probate of an intestate estate is public.

The intestate estates of some artists and celebrities end up in costly and ongoing litigation, especially when significant assets are up for grabs (read about Prince’s estate here). There is no certainty that Franklin’s estate will go through expensive and protracted litigation, but the possibility is always there when a loved one dies without giving instructions to those who go on living.

If you have a specific idea of how you want your assets distributed and do not want to risk having a state statute or a court decide ˗ and want to reduce the chance of family bickering ˗ consider having a will or trust drafted. If you also want to add the benefit of some privacy, a separate revocable trust may be your best bet. An attorney in our Trusts & Estates department can discuss with you other advantages to formalizing your estate plan.

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