Aretha Franklin's Album Cover From the Heart

The Five Year Probate Battle Over Aretha Franklin’s Estate

How important is Estate Planning? This is a question often answered with “Very Important”, however the subject can be quickly overlooked, or forgotten about. While many of us think – “I still have time” or “I’ll do that later” Later may never come.  

There has been much publicity regarding the Estate of Aretha Franklin. When she passed, she left behind two documents that purported to be her Last Will and Testament that led to many years of court battles between her children.  

The Huron Daily Tribune published an article with the headline “Expensive court fight over Aretha Franklin’s will provides cautionary tale.” Fox News also published an article titled, “Aretha Franklin joins Prince, Michael Jackson and Robin Williams as stars’ families battle it out over wills”. These are only two articles of many on the subject of Ms. Franklin’s probate nightmare, and there will surely be many more as the arguments and distributions continue.  

Ms. Franklin’s children have been fighting over her estate for 5 years regarding which document will serve as her true Last Will and Testament. Ms. Franklin had a formal typewritten Will from 2010 in a locked cabinet and a handwritten Will in a journal from 2014 that was found in her couch. There wasn’t much difference between the Wills, but the original had provisions regarding major distributions and the latter did not.   

Due to the contentious nature of this situation, the court will likely nominate a third party to be the personal representative, better known as the executor. Although the Will nominated a personal representative, the unique and highly contentious nature of this situation calls for a third party to be nominated. While the distributions will be made according to the designations in the Will, anything not listed in the Will or unclear instructions may still lead to judicial interpretation. 

 While we think we may still have time, that we don’t have enough assets to worry about, or our children will get along fine – You don’t want to leave your family in a predicament fighting over your assets. Had Ms. Franklin, had her 2014 Will drafted by an experienced attorney there likely would not have been a 5-year argument over which Will to honor.  

Furthermore, had Mr. Franklin put her assets in a Living Trust, she could have avoided the probate nightmare her children are in now. The tale of Ms. Franklin’s final wishes have become public knowledge and are available for viewing to anyone who searches for them.  Ms. Franklin could have avoided the public airing of her affairs by using a Revocable Living Trust. A Revocable Living Trust allows someone to designate exactly who gets what, and who will be in charge to act on one’s final wishes 

It is common to hear about children fighting over what they believe should be their inheritance which is why it is crucial that you take the time to plan ahead and give clear instructions for who you want to get what. You may save your family from years of stress. At Biddinger, Schrot & Rolando, PC, we are here to help. Call us today at 989-872-5601 to schedule a FREE Consultation by using the Referral Code: Aretha Franklin Blog. During the consultation we will discuss what you have, what you want, and what you need and create a plan that best suits your wishes.  

To see the full article visit the following link.  

Gregory S. Schrot

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