Legendary singer Aretha Franklin, who died in August of 2018 from pancreatic cancer at age 76, had no official will or trust at the time of her passing. Like Prince and many other late music superstars, Franklin sang her heart out but unfortunately failed to protect her fortune and estate to pass them safely on to her heirs.
It has been reported that three handwritten wills were found at her estate, but by neglecting to draw up an official last will and testament, it could cost her heirs a severe amount of time and money in legal fees. Despite the family having these handwritten wills, the court can rule against Franklin’s wishes and bring about tremendous stress.
So, what can we take away from Aretha Franklin’s estate planning fiasco?
Well, first and foremost, it’s time to formalize a will. It’s essential to decide how your estate will be distributed. If you die without a will, there is no guarantee that your desires will be carried out the way you see fit. Having a will allows you to decide which person or people you would like to raise your children or receive your assets, or better yet, determine who you don’t want to have your children, money and/or property.
Of course, estate laws vary by location, so you will need to make sure the decisions you make in your will reflect the state in which you reside. It takes the power of a skilled and knowledgeable attorney to carefully check all the boxes to keep your estate legally secure and give you peace of mind.
It would be unwise to take the handwritten avenue or even download a form from the internet. Hire a trusted estate planning attorney to avoid a lengthy and expensive probate process. Having a will speeds up the probate process and tells the court how you would like your estate to be divided amongst your heirs.
The next step is to keep your will updated. These documents, along with the other areas of your estate planning, should be revisited every few years, if not annually. We go through many changes in a year’s time, whether that means gaining more valuable items or remarrying. If you go through any significant developments in your life, take action.
In addition to your life changes, laws can also change. Tax laws can increase, and it can affect your wishes. If you don’t revisit your will, it could no longer validate your intent about how much money will benefit your children or grandchildren.
Lastly, make sure your will is easy to find after your passing. Franklin’s family and heirs found those handwritten wills by combing through her estate. There’s no telling if there are any more updated versions in other places. It’s a common mistake to make, so be sure to keep it in mind for your friends and family’s sake.
These kinds of planning are not necessarily fun to explore and can be overwhelming to draft, but it can save your heirs from going through additional turmoil after your passing. Get started today and contact an attorney at Burrows Law Group at 972-703-4004, or contact us here.