It is hard to believe that it has been almost five years since we lost the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin. However, you may have noticed that she was in the news quite recently. More accurately, a fight over her estate was in the news.
Ms. Franklin left a 2010 Will. However, her family later discovered a 2014 handwritten document stuffed in her couch. This document, according to the Associated Press, contained “scribbles and hard-to-decipher passages,” and contained significant differences from the 2010 Will. The result was a fight among her four sons, which was not resolved until a jury decided which document controlled (the 2014 handwritten document).
Despite a huge net worth, some celebrities do not leave a Will at all. The musician, Prince, apparently had an estate worth between $50 million and $200 million but left no Will. Astonishingly, the billionaire, Howard Hughes, left no Will.
Sometimes the problem is that the Will or trust is not effective to address the person’s wishes and/or avoid disputes. When Jim Morrison (the lead singer of the musical group, The Doors) died, the only asset of significance that he left was partial ownership in a band that was not particularly valuable. That interest grew to be worth tens of millions of dollars.
Morrison left a simple Will directing his assets be distributed to his girlfriend. When she died a short time later, and without a Will, a legal fight ensued between his family and hers. In that case, a simple Will may not have been the most effective way to address foreseeable issues that could (and did) arise.
Larry King created a formally written Will, and several trusts, for his estate estimated to be worth 144 million dollars. Shortly before he died, King wrote and signed a three-sentence letter stating the letter was intended to “replace all previous writings.” This significantly changed his instructions in the formally drafted documents. The fighting started almost immediately.
You may not be a “celebrity” or wealthy, but your estate matters. Understanding a few basic steps can make all the difference to ensure you have the right estate plan for your circumstances. Come to a free no obligation presentation to learn about those steps.