You can provide cautionary advice to people, and sometimes they heed it, but more often than not they adopt the Missouri “show me” attitude. They take the warnings more seriously if you can demonstrate the consequences by pointing toward a real life event that actually happened.
This is something that definitely enters into the realm of estate planning. With this in mind, we like to look at instructive celebrity estate mistakes when they materialize, and it is all too common. In this post, we will share some details about the Aretha Franklin estate matter.
Holographic Wills Found
Franklin was not married at the time of her death at the age of 76, and she had four adult sons. It was estimated that her estate was valued at some $80 million. Of course, when you are talking about someone with a recognizable likeness and persona along with a body of work for sale, there will be ongoing income.
You would think that someone that had been quite wealthy for decades would understand how important it is to put an estate plan in place. Aside from the obvious, there is the matter of the federal estate tax. It carries a 40% maximum rate, and the value of her estate far exceeded the exclusion amount throughout the years, even though the exclusion has always been considerable.
After the initial mourning period, interested parties started to address the estate situation. As it turns out, it appeared as though she had no estate planning documents at all. In these intestacy cases, the probate court steps in to examine the details, sort things out, and otherwise supervise the administration of the estate.
Several months after she passed away, there was a revelation uncovered by her niece and personal representative (a role similar to that of an executor ) of her estate, Sabrina Owens. She found keys that unlocked a particular cabinet, and there were two handwritten wills inside that were penned in 2010.
In legal parlance, a will that is written out by hand is called a holographic will. So if you see this term, you don’t have to scratch your head wondering about this complicated three-dimensional document.
Subsequently, a spiral notebook turned up under a couch cushion, and there was another rather sloppily written will in the notebook. The date that was on the this one was 2014, so if they are valid, it would be the most recent one, which is relevant.
This has complicated the matter considerably, and the probate court will ultimately make a determination in light of this discovery. The matter could potentially be decided upon soon, but at the time of this writing, the court has not finalized the case.
Action Is Required
Clearly, the vast majority of people out there do not have tens of millions of dollars to pass along to their loved ones. And about 99.9% of people that do are certainly going to recognize the significance of advanced estate planning. This being stated, there are far too many people going through life without estate plans, and as you can see, this is risky business.
One would assume that over the years Aretha Franklin thought that she would have the time to create a proper estate plan later in her life. In the end, she never got around to it, even though she was earning big money when she was a young adult.
Simply put, we have one message: Don’t let this happen to you.
If you are going through life without an estate plan, now is the time to put the procrastination behind you. We would be more than glad to sit down and get to know you, gain an understanding of your finances, your family dynamic, and your objectives, and make the appropriate recommendations.
You can request a consultation appointment if you send us a message through our contact page, and we can be reached by phone at 310-337-7696.