By Allison L. Byrd, Morgan & DiSalvo, P.C.
Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul” and a beloved American icon, died in her home on August 14, 2018, at age 76. Despite having achieved a reputation as one of the most talented vocalists in the world and having amassed an estate worth approximately $80 million, including the rights to many of her hit songs, Franklin reportedly died without a will or trust in place to guide the disposition of her massive estate. Sabrina Owens, Franklin’s niece, has petitioned the Oakland County Probate Court in Michigan to appoint her as the personal representative of the estate, and Franklin’s four sons also filed documents in that Court on Tuesday, naming themselves as parties interested in her estate.
While there is no indication of any family dispute over the estate at this point, the details of Franklin’s massive estate will likely be laid bare in the public records of the probate court, and her estate will likely have to pay large sums in federal estate taxes that could have been reduced or eliminated if she’d had a well-drafted estate plan in place. Franklin’s long-time entertainment lawyer, Don Wilson, stated in an interview with the Detroit Free Press, that he “was after [Franklin] for a number of years to do a trust.” Wilson added, “It would have expedited things and kept them out of probate and kept things private.” Wilson also noted the tendency for family fights to develop over the distribution of estates that are not governed by the terms of a will (sometimes called “intestate” estates).
But you don’t have to be musical royalty in order to benefit from a well-structured estate plan, prepared by a knowledgeable and competent estate planning attorney. With proper estate planning, you can minimize administrative costs and hassles, reduce or eliminate exposure to estate taxes, avoid potential family disputes over your assets after your death, and keep the details of your estate assets private. And that’s something to sing about.
The estate planning attorneys at Morgan & DiSalvo, P.C. are available to advise clients on the best estate planning options available. Call (678) 720-0750 to schedule a confidential estate planning consultation.