Estate Planning 101 By Attorney Marlene S. Cooper /The Many Wills of Aretha Franklin 8/19/21
Aretha Franklin is in the news again. A movie, based on her life, just opened last week chronicling her rise as the Queen of Soul. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I’m wondering if any mention was made in the movie of what has happened to her estate following her death in August, 2018.
The news reported widely that after Aretha’s death a few handwritten documents, which may represent two or even three wills, were found in her home, leading to a dispute among her four sons over how her estate should be run and its assets divided. Now, nearly three years after her death, yet another will has surfaced!! Apparently Aretha had a lawyer draw up a very detailed will but it apparently wasn’t signed. Now it is clear that the battle over her estate will carry on anew.
Following the death of Michael Jackson (“MJ”) more than a decade ago, I wrote the following: “Even though MJ and his contributions to music will go down in history, his death left the same issue to be dealt with by his survivors as the one our survivors will deal with when we die: what will happen to all of MJ’s worldly possessions?” MJ left a detailed estate plan consisting of a will and a living trust. Much of it was made public and, so far as we know, his wishes are being carried out. This is especially wonderful since it is estimated that his estate is now worth much more than it was when he was alive.
A few years ago, we were waiting to learn the estate plan of another deceased musical icon – Prince. I have not read or heard that a will was ever found – not even a handwritten will or a draft in an attorney’s office. When a person dies without a will, the default laws of the state of the person’s residence will determine who inherits the estate. These default laws are called the laws of intestate succession. The default laws applied in Prince’s case yielded a result he probably never would have wanted. Because Prince had no wife or children, his estate was divided between his seven siblings (the sister that shared the same mother and father as well as the six half-blood siblings that only shared parentage with either the father or the mother). The many charities and causes he supported while living will get nothing and it remains to be seen what his siblings will do with their fabulous windfall.
It is well known that artists and celebrities often neglect the business side of life. Maybe they are just like some of the rest of us – they don’t want to think about their own mortality and carry on as though they will live forever, even in the face of a terminal illness. What about you? What will be your estate planning epitaph?
© 2021 by Marlene S. Cooper. All rights reserved.
(You may obtain further information at the website www.marlenecooperlaw.com, by email at MarleneCooperLaw@gmail.com, by phone at (626) 791-7530 or toll free at (866) 702-7600. The information in this article is of a general nature and not intended as legal advice. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this article).