After the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin died in 2018, it was reported that she had not done any estate planning. Like many other celebrities – and non-celebrities for that matter – Franklin apparently just hadn’t gotten around to writing a Will or Trust. However, recently those reports were turned on their head when three handwritten Wills were discovered in Franklin’s suburban Detroit home.
The most recently dated Will is from March 2014 is difficult to read, with words and phrases crossed out and notations in the margins. This document was inside a spiral notebook found under couch cushions in her home; the two earlier versions – both from 2010 – were inside a locked cabinet.
The newly discovered documents have been filed with the probate court overseeing Franklin’s estate, although it is unclear whether any of the three will be valid under Michigan law. A ruling on validity is expected after a scheduled hearing on June 12. Until and unless the court decides otherwise, the personal representative who has been serving so far will continue in that role, although one of Franklin’s four sons believes he has standing under the 2014 Will to act in that capacity.
At least two of Franklin’s sons reportedly object to the Wills, setting the stage for what could be months or even years of contentious litigation and expenses for the estate.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that a handwritten Will is enough to make your wishes known when you die. It could unintentionally create additional headaches, delays, and expenses for your intended heirs. Work with a licensed attorney who can ensure your Will, Trust, or other estate planning documents are designed to comply with your state laws.
Creating your estate plan is a valuable gift. No matter how old you are or what types of assets make up your estate, you can benefit from the process. Get our comprehensive guide, Getting Started with Estate Planning or contact us today to get started!