When Aretha Franklin passed away earlier this year, the world lost one of the most iconic soul singers of our time. The Queen of Soul left behind a long legacy of ground-breaking, awe-inspiring music. What she didn’t leave behind, however, was a will.

Whenever someone passes away intestate—i.e., without a will—it creates considerable room for confusion and disagreement in determining how the deceased’s assets should be divided. The estate administrator must go to great lengths to try to determine the deceased’s wishes. There is also a strong possibility that, without explicit instructions, potential beneficiaries will come clamoring to stake a claim on what they believe to be theirs—resulting in a long legal battle.

When the deceased is a celebrity, the process of dividing an estate without clear instructions can be even more drawn-out. We’ve witnessed the aftermath of Prince’s intestate passing more than two years ago. His heirs have yet to receive any inheritance.

Experts estimate Aretha Franklin’s estate to be worth around $80 million. Her estate is expected to include high-value assets, such as:

  • Personal property—e.g., homes, vehicles
  • Businesses and investments
  • Hard-to-value memorabilia, such as Grammy Awards and gold records

In addition, her estate likely includes valuable intellectual property, including:

  • Copyrights to her music
  • Future royalties
  • Publishing rights

Therefore, it is highly likely that her estate will take months—if not years—to settle.

No one wants to imagine their death resulting in an acrimonious legal battle among their loved ones. It is a disrespectful way to commemorate one’s life. Creating a comprehensive estate plan is critical to ensuring that your final wishes are carried out. With clear guidelines in place, your estate administrator can effectively curb any legal disputes the arise and divide your estate according to your desires.

Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.
Post A Comment