Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, left behind four sons, but no will, when she died from pancreatic cancer last week.
As a result, assets of the 76-year-old, well known for her strong voice and hits such as “Respect” and “I Say a Little Prayer,” will become public in Oakland County Probate Court. In Michigan, where the singer lived and died, estate laws dictate her assets be divided equally among her four children, TMZ reported. Her niece, Sabrina Owens, also asked the court to appoint her as a representative of the estate, reports show.
Don Wilson, an attorney who worked with Franklin for years, had urged her to create a will or trust, he told the Detroit Free Press, saying these documents would have made the estate process seamless and private (estate files are made public during the probate process). Her net worth was roughly $80 million, various reports suggest.
“It is so important for people to plan for the end of life because if they don’t plan for it, someone else will dictate how their assets are distributed,” said Cindy Kuppens, a senior adviser and chief compliance officer at O’Brien Wealth Partners in Boston.
Franklin is among the many Americans who do not have a will. Only four in 10 U.S. adults have wills, and just slightly more than a third of parents with children under 18 have wills, according to a 2018 survey by Caring.com, a senior caregiving online resource. Why haven’t these adults drafted such important documents? Almost half said they just haven’t gotten around to it, and 29% said they don’t have enough assets to leave anyone.
While not everyone without a will may have made as much as Franklin did in her lifetime, these documents are still crucial — especially when a family or home is involved. Not only do wills direct the court in dividing assets, but also other significant details, such as who to name as guardian of minor children or what meaningful items to leave to whom.
Everyone should prepare a will to avoid unnecessary stress for loved ones. Visit our helpful Wills and Probate page here.