According to recent reports, Aretha Franklin died without a revocable living trust or even a basic last will and testament.  That such an incredible person and part of music history did not have even a basic estate plan is astonishing in many ways. Franklin joins a long list of famous people who died without a will, including Howard Hughes, Bob Marley, Sony Bono and Michael Jackson.  A resident of Michigan, her assets will be passed equally to her 4 living children.

If Aretha Franklin had died a resident of Florida, her estate would also go equally to her children under the laws of intestacy. This may or may not have been her wishes, which could have been changed even with a simple will. Another issue is who would be named as the estate executor, also known as the personal representative in Florida. It is common for children of famous people fighting over control of the decedent's estate, such as the estate of Dr. Martin Luther King. Even a simple will could have nominated the executor, for instance.

Now, the probate process will likely be costly, will take a very long time, and will let the entire world see the size of her estate and many other details that otherwise would have remained private.

An estate plan for Franklin, if she so desired, certainly should have been based upon a revocable living trust. A revocable living trust would have had so many advantages, such as:

  • avoiding probate
  • providing privacy for her and her family
  • allowing a professional to serve as trustee, which may be very helpful
  • allowing the assets to be held in the trust for multiple generations and reducing estate taxes
  • ease of administration of all the assets

While not all of us look forward to our own death, most of us put much more planning into our next vacation rather than planning for our death or incapacity. 

If you want to learn more about your own estate plan, such as avoiding probate in Florida, please feel free to download a free copy of my estate planning book, the Top 20 Ways to Rules to Protect Your Florida Estate.

D. Rep DeLoach III
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Estate Planning and Board Certified Elder Law Attorney
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