When the music icon Aretha Franklin died, her heirs thought she had done so intestate — or without a will to guide the disposition of her estate. Given the size and value of her assets, that created a difficult situation but the four sons she left behind agreed to put things in the care of a capable administrator.
Then, a handwritten will was discovered in a notebook under a cushion on the singer’s couch. The 2014 will, which at least one of her sons believes is in the late singer’s writing, indicates that she wanted one of her sons to serve as her estate’s executor.
That son is now petitioning the court for control. The administrator and attorneys for the estate are pushing back under the belief that the estate is best served the way that things are set up now — a sign that family solidarity may be crumbling in the wake of the will’s revelation.
Holographic (handwritten) wills are valid under Michigan law, so long as they meet certain requirements:
- They must be signed and dated.
- All material provisions need to be in the testator’s own writing.
- They do not have to be witnessed.
While that may sound easy, there’s apparently some debate about whether the uncovered will is actually valid under the law — enough so that a judge will have to ultimately decide if it meets the criteria to be controlling.
Family drama and trouble like this after someone dies is far too common. It doesn’t take an estate the size of Franklin’s to throw all of someone’s potential heirs into a feud. That kind of trouble can often be avoided, however, with proper estate planning.
If you’ve been putting off your estate planning services, take a cue from what’s happening with Franklin’s estate and find out how to solidify your wishes in writing.