Legendary singer Aretha Franklin passed away recently of cancer at age 76. She died at her home in Detroit and left behind an estimated fortune of $80 million.
And no will.
According to the New York Times, she had four sons and four grandchildren. Laws in Michigan state that when a person dies intestate – meaning without a will – the deceased’s children can divide the estate in equal portions.
Franklin’s estate likely contains cash, various other financial accounts, investments and real estate. She also can be expected to have left behind a vast music-related collection: a music library of copyright to her songs and maybe those of other artists; gold records; Grammy Awards and other Motown memorabilia.
How all of her monetary and non-monetary holdings should be distributed to her beneficiaries normally would be dictated by an estate plan that contains a will and a trust.
Without those, however, it won’t be as easy to decide which assets she wanted her children to have, which she wanted to go to others.
One Michigan expert told People magazine that he expected her heirs to try to settle the estate themselves, behind closed doors, and outside of a courtroom. If they can’t agree, however, it could be difficult to divide all of her possessions.
“If you can avoid court proceedings, you want to avoid court proceedings,” the expert told People. “Sometimes you just can’t do that… In my experience, the larger the estate, the more public the figure, the greater the likelihood that there is going to be an issue.”
Most of us don’t leave an estate anywhere near this size. No matter what our financial status is, we owe it to our children to arrange our estate plans so there are no disputes or difficulties in settling our affairs. A Detroit-area attorney experienced in estate planning can help you do just that.