Hyden, Miron & Foster, PLLC Law Blog

Monday, October 15, 2018

Learning From Aretha Franklin’s Death

What will happen to Franklin’s estate?

Aretha Franklin, the legendary Queen of Soul, recently passed away at the age of 76.  Franklin, who rose to fame and fortune in the late 1960’s, left behind an estate with an estimated value of $80 million. While the size of her estate is no surprise given her fame, what shocked many is that she did not have a will or trust in place.  Without a will to guide the distribution of her assets, her assets will be forced to go through probate and be divided per state law. Our Arkansas estate planning lawyers discuss what will become of Franklin’s estate and how you can use estate planning to avoid probate.

The Fate of Franklin’s Estate

Aretha Franklin’s $80 million estate will need to go through probate in her home state of Michigan because she died without a will or trust in place.  Without any instructions as to her last wishes, the court will be required to distribute her assets in accordance with the law in her home state.  Her family will need to make decisions as to a funeral and burial because they do not have guidance on the matter.

Franklin’s large estate will face heavy court costs and attorney’s fees during the probate process, which could have been avoided with a trust.  Franklin left behind four sons, who have already listed themselves as interested parties in the probate case, and a niece has applied to act as executor.  Now, the court will face the potentially difficult task of dividing up Franklin’s assets to her closest living relatives per state law.

Benefits of an Estate Plan

Franklin’s estate will no doubt be reduced by court costs, attorney’s fees, and fees for other professionals who will be needed to oversee creditor payments, taxes, and the like.  A qualified estate planning attorney would no doubt have been able to preserve more of the estate for her heirs, while also ensuring Franklin’s last wishes were known and followed.

An estate plan allows you control over who receives what assets.  Even further, a trust can potentially allow your assets to transfer to your heirs without the need for probate.  Assets placed within a trust will transfer to the successor trustee and be handled per the instructions set out in the trust. Trust assets remain private, which is particularly of concern for higher earners.  In addition to a will and trust, those with significant assets like Franklin can also use inter vivos, or transfers during life, to reduce their estate in a way that does not incur taxation.  An estate planning attorney can get you started crafting an estate plan that meets your individual needs today.  


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