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By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

After nearly 20 years as an estate planning attorney I’ve come to learn that when it comes to estate planning everyone makes mistakes. This is no more apparent than when a celebrity passes away. The reason for this is that everyone is interested to know who the celebrity’s wealth and potential continuing stream of income will go to now that they have passed away. This becomes even more interesting when there is a dispute or fight between two or more potential heirs or recipients of the estate.

Famed singer and songwriter Aretha Franklin recently passed away on August 16th, 2018, at the age of 76. Her situation, and her lack of estate planning, highlight the need for all of us to make sure that our own personal estate planning is complete, and is up-to-date.

Dan Caplinger from The Montley Fool reports that “after Franklin’s death, her four sons filed legal documents with a local probate court in Michigan. According to the filings, Franklin died intestate — meaning that she had no will — and her sons couldn’t find any will or other testamentary document that would govern how her estate would be dispersed.”

Mr. Caplinger surmises that “as a consequence, details of the Queen of Soul’s estate will become part of the public record, as the probate court will have to hold proceedings to address the disposition of her assets at the time of her death. Various estimates put the value of Franklin’s estate at roughly $80 million, and although details aren’t yet known, future filings will likely reveal a mix that includes a residence, financial investments, other real estate, and possibly royalties and various business interests that she might have invested in during her lifetime. In addition, Franklin’s personal effects and memorabilia that she might have collected over the course of her career could also have both sentimental and monetary value.”

Mr. Caplinger also reports that “an attorney for Franklin told reporters that he had urged the singer to do estate planning work that could have simplified the process of distributing her assets after her death. Yet like many celebrities before her, Franklin apparently never did so.”

As a result of failing to get her own estate planning completed including a last will and testament that could have directed who her assets, money, and property would be distributed to, Franklin’s estate will now be distributed under the default estate plan which is commonly known as intestate succession. In other words, the statutes in Michigan will determine who Franklin’s heirs will be and who will receive her estate. The are several potential problems that arise with leaving the distribution of your estate up to the laws of intestacy. First, your property and money will not necessarily go to the people you would want. Second, without a written will you have opened the door for disputes and fights between your family members and other loved ones. Finally, you have no power over who is appointed to watch over and care for your estate to make sure it goes to the right people. So, rather than having your death be an opportunity to bring your family closer together, without a last will and testament and other proper estate planning documents, your death could result in your family’s disputes, and potentially the destruction of their relationships.

At its core, the most basic estate plan that everyone should have at the very least as a starting point, includes a written last will and testament, a durable power of attorney, a living will, and a health care power of attorney. These documents, while not complicated, provide the groundwork for every estate plan. In many instances, these documents form the entire estate plan. By having at least these basic documents, you can avoid the laws of intestacy and potentially the disputes and fights that could occur within your own family.


If you do not have an estate plan in place, we can help. When it comes to estate planning or probate you should never try to do it alone. If you have questions for yourself or for your family and loved ones, call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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