Queen of Soul leaves no will. Complex probate to ensue.

Estate Planning
By Goodwin Como, P.C.

Earlier this year, the world said good-bye one of the most ground-breaking musicians of our time. Aretha Franklin’s passing shed light on the iconic legacy of her life’s work—from extraordinary musical achievements to civil rights activism. One thing the Queen of Soul didn’t leave behind, however, was a will.

Passing away “intestate”—without a will—happens more often than you might expect. Many people are reluctant to consider their own death as a reality and therefore put off setting out concrete legal guidance in the event of their passing. Failing to do this, however, can lead to drawn-out legal battles and resentment in the wake of one’s passing.

When Prince passed away unexpectedly more than two years ago, he also left no will. The ensuing legal battles by friends and family making claims on his inheritance have been so complex, his heirs have yet to receive a dime.

In the case of Aretha, there is an estimated $8 million worth of property to appraise and divide. In addition to her high-value personal items—such as homes or property—an estate administrator will also need to investigate any investments or business ventures Aretha may have had. Beyond that, there is the enormous task of sorting through the musician’s intellectual property—from royalties to copyrights—as well as unique achievement memorabilia, such has her gold records and Grammy Awards.

Creating a will can be a simple, straightforward process. Jotting down your final wishes on a notepad probably isn’t sufficient to make them legally binding, however. You should meet with an estate planning attorney to draft a document that ensures your wishes will be fulfilled. Taking this easy step can save your family from additional hurt and bitterness once you’re gone.