It’s been almost three years since Aretha Franklin died from pancreatic cancer at age 76. Her fortune was estimated to be worth nearly $80 million. But because of poor estate planning, the “Queen of Soul’s” children have yet to see even a dime of their inheritance. When they ultimately do it will likely be depleted significantly by back taxes that are owed. Further, it’s still not clear whether or not Aretha ever had a valid will.
When she passed away her family thought that Aretha died without any estate plan at all. But since then, four different wills attributed to the late singer have been discovered and now there’s a court fight between her sons over who should be designated as the estate representative after they’re gone.
Aretha Franklin’s estate is going to be a major headache for her loved ones. The lawyer thinks that some of the four documents, handwritten and barely legible might not even stand as evidence in court because they could have been tampered with or forged. A trial will take place this August so we’ll see what happens.
Although her alleged wills show that Aretha was clearly concerned for the well-being of her loved ones and wanted them to share her fortune, the late singer’s haphazard planning has pitted brother against brother, exposed dark family secrets, and jeopardized millions of dollars to go to the IRS. Maybe worst of all, the legendary singer was notoriously private and now all of this is being played out in the news headlines for the entire world to see.
It might be hard to imagine, but it’s sadly true that many famous musicians die without wills. A prime example is Jimi Hendrix; he died with a little over $200 in his bank account and unclaimed royalties from the 1968 release of Electric Ladyland. We cover these stories because we want you to have peace of mind knowing your legacy will live on after death…as long as you plan for it!
Aretha Franklin’s situation may seem like an unfortunate tragedy—but unfortunately, she isn’t alone when it comes to not having a proper estate plan before her passing: Prince was another musician who also didn’t leave behind any documents or assets upon dying at age 57 due mainly – again-to lack of preparation beforehand.
Planning is vital for everyone, not just those who are wealthy. Planning can be especially crucial if you do not have a lot of assets to protect. For example, Aretha Franklin’s heirs will still inherit from her estate while mistakes may wipe out the smaller estates that don’t plan accordingly with their limited resources.
Proper planning could have prevented the entire mess for Aretha’s family from ever happening! There are steps you can take to make certain that, unlike Aretha, your loved ones never have to endure such a nightmare.
An Inadequate and Incomplete Plan
Based on all of the different versions of her will, it’s clear that Aretha cared deeply about her four sons and other family members, and she wanted her loved ones to benefit from her wealth and other assets. However, given that her first few attempts at estate planning were done on her own, by hand, and then seemingly lost or forgotten about, she didn’t take the job as seriously as she should have—at least in the beginning.
While the discovery of the fourth will suggests that Aretha did get serious about creating a more formal estate plan in her later years, it’s unclear why that version of her will and its instructions to create a trust for her son Clarence, didn’t surface earlier. Indeed, if the New York Times report is accurate, they were incomplete, unsigned, and seemingly far from adequate for an estate that large and complex.
What’s more, it looks like her estate will have to pay millions in back taxes. Adding that huge tax liability on top of all the other troubles that have plagued her loved ones since the day she died, it becomes all too clear that Aretha could have done a much better job at estate planning.
With the proper estate planning, the legendary singer’s loved ones would have had immediate access to her assets upon her death, avoiding the need for court involvement altogether and kept the contents and terms of her estate totally private.
What’s more, a truly effective plan also would have provided a lifetime’s worth of support for her son Clarence, who has special needs and may need financial support for his lifetime. If you have a loved one with special needs, contact us at Morgan Law Group to learn more about the unique strategies involved with estate planning for those with special needs or a disability.