Ten months after her death, Aretha Franklin is back in the news. In August 2018, it was reported that the legendary singer passed away without writing a will or trust. With an estate that was reportedly worth $80 million dollars and royalty money and future rights possibly adding to that amount, the estate would be left in the hands of the courts to decide how it should be distributed.
Amazingly, three handwritten wills were recently discovered in a locked cabinet and under couch cushions in her Detroit-area home. Two were dated from 2010 and one was written in 2014. Also called holographic wills, handwritten wills are legal if they meet certain criteria and are deemed valid by the probate courts. Handwritten wills must be entirely handwritten, without any typed portions. They must be easy to decipher, clearly outlining how the estate should be managed and distributed. The holographic will must also be signed by the person who wrote it (the testator).
In her mind, Ms. Franklin may have felt these documents were sufficient to protect her estate. However, even with these seemingly legal documents now uncovered, there is question as to their validity under Michigan law. You can view the latest handwritten will by clicking here, courtesy of the Detroit Free Press. As you will see, the document is extremely difficult to read and the other two are equally as confusing. The distribution wishes of Ms. Franklin’s assets is unclear and two of her sons are contesting the handwritten wills. The hearing to determine validity is set for June 12, 2019.
There are even questions regarding who should act as the executor of the estate. Ms. Franklin’s niece has been acting as the executor, but the handwritten will states that one of her sons should be the executor. This all translates into a messy situation that may drag on – publicly – in the courts for years.
So, what is the purpose of estate planning? To prevent matters exactly like this from occurring. To protect the possessions you have worked so hard to achieve over your lifetime. To safeguard your family from outsiders stealing their inheritance. To lower the risk of excessive taxation on your estate. Bottom line? To show your estate some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Your estate does not have to be worth $80 million dollars to be worthy of proper estate planning documents. The Denver estate planning lawyers at Brown & Crona, LLC can help you get your affairs in order so you can create the most comprehensive will or trust possible – one that will leave little room for questions or confusion. Don’t wait to get this done. You never know what the future holds. To learn more or to arrange a meeting, please contact us at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online.