I spend so much time educating people who don’t have a fraction of a fraction of the money or resources Ms. Franklin’s acquired in her lifetime and one of the reasons they think they don’t need an estate plan is because they aren’t rich or about to die.
I just know this isn’t so. I just know this beautiful, intelligent, accomplished, mother and icon, who is worth tens of millions of dollars, did not depart this earth on August 16, 2018 without a will. I know she didn’t do that. There has to be a will that one of her kids are hiding because they didn’t like their share according to the will. I’m certain the attorney who drafted it is going to appear any day now with the signed original and have it probated in court. I just know, Ms. Franklin did not die without a will, especially given the fact that her death was not sudden. We were all aware of the fact that she’s been having battles with her health for years. And just recently, when death was imminent, there was definitely time to have a will drafted (assuming she still maintained the legal capacity). Her estate should not be distributed according to the laws of intestacy. Her family should not be battling all of this out in court. She couldn’t possibly allow a substantial portion of her estate to be swallowed up by federal and state taxes, probate court fees, and attorney’s fees. I know! She must have had a living trust in place in which all of her assets were titled. That must be it! Because ain’t no way, she went out like that. Not Ms. Franklin. No ma’am. I don’t believe that for one second.
According to the laws of intestate, and because Ms. Franklin was unmarried at the time of her death, Ms. Franklin’s assets (a reportedly $80 million) will be split equally amongst her four sons. That’s after the court fees, lawyer fees, taxes, bonds, administration fees, and whatever else the probate process will eat up. Did you know that the probate process is essentially a lawsuit against the deceased? So, when you think of it that way, you get a better understanding as to just how much money will be gone before it reaches any of her sons’ pockets.
Now I didn’t know Ms. Franklin personally, but based on reports that I’ve read since her passing, it is fairly evident that she didn’t want people to know about her health issues and tried to mask them. In my opinion, this is likely what prevented her from ever having a will drafted or employing the use of any estate planning tools. She maintained she was fine and fabulous and drafting a will would have been like accepting the cold, hard, reality that her health was failing her, and tomorrow was not promised. I only wish she had someone close to her in her ear stressing the importance of estate planning and having a will at the very least.
Wills aren’t even the go-to estate planning tool. You have a will drafted just in case your other estate planning tools and probate avoidance techniques don’t work out the way you intended. The will is like a catch all. It’s the bare minimum.
People, we have GOTS to do better. Ain’t no way this should have happened. I’m so mad for her and her family right now. All the money that she’s worked so hard to obtain, the legacy that she’s built over the last 50 plus years, everything that she has earned is now the subject of litigation.
I spend so much time educating people who don’t have a fraction of a fraction of the money or resources Ms. Franklin’s acquired in her lifetime and one of the reasons they think they don’t need an estate plan is because they aren’t rich or about to die. And here, we have a woman who was very wealthy and knew of her declining health and resulting death and still didn’t have anything in place. The problem is not wealth or health. The problem is us. Because this makes absolutely no sense.
My heart goes out to Aretha Franklin’s friends and family and to everyone who knew and loved her. We lost a great one. She will most certainly be missed. Rest In Power Queen.
Lerae Funderburg, Esq. is the Managing Attorney at Funderburg Law, LLC, an Atlanta based law firm specializing in entertainment and business transactions and estate planning. As an lawyer and blogger, Lerae keeps her viewers and subscribers up to date with entertainment and business law news, especially in the areas of music, copyright law and trademark law, as well as estate planning issues. If you are local to Atlanta, call and set up a consultation! She would love to hear from you!