Many of us were saddened by the news Aretha Franklin died and were surprised she did not leave a will.
What did this mean for her estimated $80 million estate? Would it go to her sons or other family members? What about her lawyer, agent, and other people who helped her career? Is there such a thing as too rich or too poor to have a will?
What a Will is and Why it is Important
A will is a legal document in which:
- you name the beneficiaries of your estate
- designate how your estate will be divided
- name a guardian for your minor children
It is important to have a will whether you are a millionaire or if you are living from paycheck to paycheck. It allows you to decide who will be included in the division of your estate. If you do not have a will set up, then it will be up to a judge to determine how your estate is divided as well as who will take custody of your minor children.
In the case of Aretha Franklin, under Michigan law, if an unmarried person dies without leaving a will, then their assets will be divided equally between any surviving children. Aretha Franklin has four adult sons, but that has not kept other family members from trying to get their cut of her wealth. Her niece has also decided to file to be appointed to be the personal representative for her estate. When you do not leave a will, it opens it up for other family members to fight over what they believe is their share of your estate.
If you have a will, then the judge will go with what your wishes are, and it will reduce the fighting between your loved ones.
Why Not Everyone Has a Will
Many people know that having a will is important, but they put it off. When you are younger, it is not something you want to think about. Many think that making a will is not something you will need to do until you are older.
Even after getting older, many still do not create a will. They either just do not get around to it, or they think that their family will not fight over their estate. Others, are fine with the probate judge deciding.
Unfortunately, some circumstances cause us to die before we get around to writing our will. It is important to have a will no matter what age you are. You can always adjust it as you get older or as your circumstances change.
What Happens if You Do Not Have a Will
If you do not have a will when you die, then the state will determine how your estate is divided. Each state has its own set of laws, so how it gets divided depends on what state you live in. Typically, legal spouses, children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings will be included in who gets a portion of your estate. Most states do not recognize charities, friends, and unmarried partners. They will not receive anything unless you have a will. If relatives cannot be found, then your assets may be retained by the state.
How Having a Will Helps
If you do not have a will, then your family will have to go to a probate court. The probate court will appoint someone to oversee your estate and divide your assets.
Having a will is about protecting your family. You will not be around to see it executed so think of them and what not having a will set up will put them through. You do not want to leave them to sort your assets and pay court fees after having to deal with your loss.
In Aretha Franklin’s case, her sons are entitled to her estate, but there may be a long battle with other family members. Getting started on an estate plan can be daunting. We’re here to help.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation.