Aretha Franklin: Another Music Legend Who Didn’t Write A Will

Wooton, Davis, Hussell & Johnson, PLLC

Tomorrow, Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin will be laid to rest in her hometown of Detroit, MI after battling advanced pancreatic cancer. Against the urging of her lawyer, Franklin did not set up a will and trust prior to her passing, and many predict trouble ahead for the settling of her estate.

Franklin’s four sons will likely split their famous mother’s estate, but complications will certainly arise. Other famous artists who died without a will include Prince, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix. After Prince’s death in 2016, people emerged from the woodwork claiming familial relationship. It took months for the probate court to work out the details, finally awarding Prince’s estate to his sister and 5 half-siblings. Both Marley’s and Hendrix’s estates were contested for more than 30 years each. In fact, the final details of Hendrix’s estate weren’t settled until 2015.

If history is any indication, the coming months will be fraught with legal complications for Franklin’s family. Had a will and trust been established, the details of her wishes would have remained a private matter handled out of court. Now, the Franklin estate will be settled in Oakland County Probate Court, opening the details of her assets and debts to the public eye.

Like many artists, Aretha Franklin elected to manage her own financial affairs. Overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, Franklin reportedly racked up many debts over the years. Adding to the complication of people who will attempt to claim relation Franklin, will be creditors seeking a portion of the estate.

So far Franklin’s sons have rallied together and agreed on the appointment of her niece, Sabrina Garrett Owens, as the administrator of the estate. It’s yet to be determined whether the family will be able to avoid feuds as the estate is settled.

Even if you aren’t Aretha Franklin, be sure you have a well-drafted, up-to-date will outlining the distribution of your estate. Your family will thank you.

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