A recent two-day trial pitted the late Queen of Soul's children against each other in a battle over two handwritten versions of the singer's final wishes. Franklin, a fiercely private woman, was said to have resisted writing a formal will despite years of ill health. Oh Aretha, it didn’t have to be this way.
The two handwritten wills at the center of a years-long legal battle over Aretha Franklin’s estimated $6 million estate were barely legible — with crossed-out words and scribblings in the margins — but had to be deciphered by jurors at trial.
One version was found in a locked cabinet in her home and the competing document was found under the seat cushions of her couch. All the pages contained notes in the margins, crossed-out words and were messily written. What a tall task it was for the jury to decipher all of that.
Aretha gives us all good advice about estate planning in her famous song “Think!”
"You better think (think) Think about what you're trying to do to me Think (think, think) Let your mind go, let yourself be free"
1. Don’t Leave a Mess for Your Family
Your family is the most important thing in your life. I’m certain Ms. Franklin felt that way. Her failure to plan pitted her family against one another in an expensive and traumatic court proceeding. The wounds will never heal. Estate planning is taking care of your family. If you do not take the time to get your estate plan in good order, is that consistent with your feelings about your family? Of course not. Think! Make it a priority to get your estate planning done.
The Mess You Leave Behind: Real stories of messy family situations caused by a lack of estate planning.
2. DIY Estate Planning is a Bad Idea
A handwritten Will is barely better than no Will at all. In virtually every instance, a court proceeding will be necessary to validate the document. It may not be admitted to probate at all because you failed to do something necessary to make it valid as a Will. Probate is already a long and expensive process. Why do something that would make it take even longer and be more expensive? You work hard for your money and you love your family. Why roll the dice on a handwritten Will? Think! Only a Chain of Fools does this.
3. No Will = the Government’s Will for your Family
Without a Will, you’re choosing to let the government decide how to divide your assets. Its your right as an American to decide how your assets will be divided. When you have no Will, you’re “waiving” that right in favor of the government’s Will, called the law of intestate succession. Do you trust the government to take care of your family? Of course not. Do you have any idea what the government’s Will says? You don’t. You might be VERY surprised about who gets what and when. That’s not the kind of surprise I like – how about you? Think! Get your Will done.
Think! Get Your Will Started Today
Ms. Franklin’s family situation is something that can be easily avoided by getting your estate planning DONE. We make it easy. DON'T WAIT. Get the process started today. In the meantime, I Say a Little Prayer for Aretha’s family.