The recent passing of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, has got America’s attention for many reasons. Her life and music are being celebrated around the world for the ways in which they have impacted countless lives. Aretha Franklin is, without a doubt, an icon known around the globe. Even so, she is the same as every other American in one crucial way – her assets are subject to probate and the laws of intestate succession because she died without a will.
The absence of a will for Aretha Franklin has already had the unintended and unfortunate consequence of delaying her funeral for a couple of weeks following her death on August 16, 2018. Her family members approached the Oakland County Probate Court in her home state of Michigan, in hopes of resolving the matter, even as the grief over the loss of their beloved mother, aunt, and family member was fresh in their hearts. Fortunately, everything was able to be resolved so that a funeral replete with remembrances by numerous clergy, musicians, family members, and public figures can take place on August 31, 2018, at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit.
At the time of her passing, Ms. Franklin was not married. In the absence of a will, Michigan law provides the rules by which the assets of an unmarried person will be divided. Under that law, the assets will be distributed equally among all of Franklin’s children. It is as of yet uncertain who will administer Franklin’s estate, but her niece has asked the Oakland County Probate Court to appoint her as a personal representative of the estate.
It is unclear exactly why Aretha Franklin did not have a will, but it is entirely possible that it’s the very same reason that many Americans do not yet have that critical document prepared – it appears as though she just never got around to doing it. The attorney who has represented Franklin in music industry matters for years says that he had explained the need for a will, trusts, and other estate planning to Franklin and that he had reminded her many times to do these important tasks. Despite his advice, Aretha Franklin never got around to making a will, preparing a trust, or creating any other documents that would keep any matters related to her passing out of probate and, perhaps even more importantly, out of the public eye.
One unfortunate consequence of the absence of a will for Aretha Franklin is that the administration of her entire estate is subject to the delays, procedures, and publicity that are inherent in the probate process. Since Franklin was such a well-known public figure, the public’s interest in the probate proceedings related to her estate is likely to be quite high, as will the amount of media coverage. You may not be a public figure of the magnitude of Aretha Franklin, but the possibility of the settlement of your affairs following your death being done openly in public may make you cringe. For many people, the thought of such publicity is not cringe-worthy because they have anything to hide, but because they respect the privacy of others and wish for their privacy and their family’s privacy to be respected during their lifetime and after their death.
If you are among the estimated sixty percent of American adults who do not have a will, it’s time to schedule an initial consultation with Wichita attorney J. Joseph Weber. Please call our office at (316) 265-7802, or contact us through our website.