Aretha Franklin "Never Got Around" To Drafting A Trust For Her $80M+ Estate; Court Battle
When legendary singer Aretha Franklin died last week from pancreatic cancer at 76, she did not have a will or trust. Though difficult to value at this time, estimates value her estate in the neighborhood of $80 million.
Without a trust, her entire estate will be subject to costly, time-consuming and public probate proceedings. The estate may face higher taxes than it otherwise would have paid with proper estate planning. Also, her estate will also be divided according to Michigan laws-- not necessarily how she would have liked her legacy to be distributed.
Noteably, Prince died over two years ago in Minnesota without a will or trust. Dozens of people came forward arguing for a share of his $200M estate. As of today, not a penny of Prince's estate has been distributed to his rightful heirs.
The court battle is already shaping up. In addition to her sons' filing as interested parties, Franklin's niece has asked the court to appoint her as a personal representative of the estate, the Detroit Free Press reported. It said under Michigan law, if an unmarried person dies without a will, his or her assets are divided equally among any children.
Franklin's lawyer has represented her in entertainment matters for nearly three decades, and told the paper that he constantly asked her to do a trust, but she never got around to it.
"I was after her for a number of years to do a trust," Los Angeles attorney Don Wilson told the paper. "It would have expedited things and kept them out of probate and kept things private."
Wilson is Franklin's attorney in copyright matters, song publishing and record deals, and will be consulted on estate planning purposes. He said while he doesn't have a dollar figure on the value of her assets, the lack of a will means the finances will become public in Oakland County Probate Court.
"I just hope (Franklin's estate) doesn't end up getting so hotly contested," Wilson said. "Any time they don't leave a trust or will, there always ends up being a fight."
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