Saddened as we were by the death of Aretha Franklin, we were shocked to learn that despite her sizable estate of more the $80 million, she had absolutely no estate plan in place.
Although it is true that more than 55% of Americans have done nothing to plan for their death or disability, we are always surprised when a wealthy senior dies without having done any estate planning knowing as we do that lack of planning will likely mean costly court battles over the disposition of many millions of dollars. The administration of Ms. Franklin’s estate will be especially complex given the royalty revenue that will outlive her.
Aretha Franklin had a ‘family attorney’, Donald Wilson, with whom she had a 28-year professional relationship. Mr. Wilson offered many times to create a trust for Ms. Franklin and although she was not adverse to the idea, her attorney related in a recent interview that she just never actually got around to doing the planning. That tendency to procrastinate is exactly why more of us do not have this vital planning.
While Ms. Franklin did neglect to provide any legal indication of where, how, and when her millions should be dispersed, the state of Michigan knows exactly to whom those assets will go; its call dying intestate, and each state of the union has its own idea of who will inherit if you fail to plan. In fact, Ms. Franklin four sons, Clarence Franklin, Edward Franklin, Kecalf Franklin, and Ted White Jr, will divide their mother's assets equally in the absence of a will.
References: ET by Elizabeth Stanton, September 3, 2018 “Aretha Franklin's Lawyer Explains Why Singer Did Not Have a Will at Time of Her Death”