The passing of Aretha Franklin recently made major headline news. The “Queen of Soul” singer/song writer career spanned over decades and amassed a rather large estate. According to a reporting by Celebrity Net Worth,  Ms.  Franklin left behind an estate worth reportedly $80 million. Although Ms. Franklin had four sons, the singer/songwriter, according to a report by the LA Times did not leave behind a will or a trust. While it is not mandatory to have a will or a trust, being without either can cause some headaches. Each state has their own statutes regarding those who die without a will or trust (intestate).


Beware of creditors

When one dies without a will or trust, one of the problems someone might encounter is the possibility of creditors. As discussed in one of our previous blog posts, “Florida Estate Planning: Why should I avoid probate?” probate can sound the collection alarm to creditors if the estate is indebted. According Michigan Compiled Laws § 700.2110 Debts To Decedent, “A debt owed to a decedent is not charged against the intestate share of any individual except the debtor. If the debtor fails to survive the decedent, the debt is not taken into account in computing the intestate share of the debtor’s descendants.” While it has not been reported that Ms. Franklin’s estate is indebted, the potential of creditors coming exists. While we don’t practice in Michigan, very rarely do we handle an estate here in Florida that has no creditors.


Potential of family feuds

As stated in Michigan Compiled Laws section 700.2101, a person who dies intestate, without a will or trust, will go to the “decedent’s heirs.”  Although the statute will typically divide the assets amongst the heirs, there becomes a possibility of contention amongst family members and extended family members. According to a report by the NY Times, Ms. Franklin’s four sons filed in probate court as “interested parties.” As discussed in our blog post, “Florida Estate Planning: Why should I avoid probate?” the probate process can lead to litigation over disputes of how the assets are distributed and to whom they are distributed to. Further, the possibility of extended or estranged family members filing as “interested parties” could lead to those individuals receiving some of the estate. As for Ms. Franklin’s estate, Forbes reported Ms. Franklin’s son, Kecalf, requested the court to name Sabrina Garret Owens, Ms. Franklin’s niece, as the personal representative to the estate.


The costs of probate

While the probate process can vary from state to state, the costs can become very expensive. As we discussed in our post “Florida Estate Planning: Why should I avoid probate?” the compensation for attorneys, in addition to the filing fees and other court costs, can enter into the tens of thousands. As stated in the NY Times these proceedings could last for a long time, which can contribute to these costs. While Ms. Franklin’s heirs will have to pay for these fees to obtain the estate, this process could have been avoided had there been a trust.


Contact us today to schedule a free consultation

If you are looking to create an estate plan, have questions about your current estate plan, or need to open a Florida probate estate for a loved one, contact us today to schedule a free consultation. During our consultation, one of our attorneys will review your estate plan, provide recommendations about changes that may beneficial, and answer any questions you may have. A strong estate plan can avoid the complications, time, and cost that will likely arise in Aretha Franklin’s estate. If you need assistance with a probate matter, one of our attorneys will be able to talk with you about the probate issues and give you an idea of what is involved. Contact us today to learn how.

Written by: Sarah Jacobi, Stetson University College of Law, Class of 2020
Edited by: John Richert, Esq. and Patrick Quarles Esq.

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