Aretha Franklin died at the age of 76 of pancreatic cancer in her Detroit home. What makes this particular loss even more devastating was that Franklin, who’s estate was estimated to be worth approximately $80 million dollars, did not have a will in place, let alone an estate plan. 


Unfortunately, due to not having a plan in place, Franklin’s case ended up in the hands of the probate court, which would ultimately happen even if there was a will set in place; however, if the probate court deemed the will as valid with no objections, the stipulations of the will would be as followed. As a result of going to probate, the contents of her estate will be made public, and so will any family disputes that happen to arise, which may or may not be detrimental to her name and her legacy. 


The lack of a proper estate plan ended up being a costly and lengthy process for her four children to endure. In fact, due to the vast size of the estate, probate proceedings could last for several years. Additionally, in Franklin’s particular case, her eldest son, Clarence, has special needs, and therefore requires financial and other forms of support for the remainder of his life. As a result, his caregivers may have to choose whether or not to accept the inheritance and lose any governmental aid he may have potentially received, or may be left with other alternative choices, such as disclaiming his mother’s inheritance. This could have all been avoided if there had been a Special Needs Trust in place, allowing her son to be able to access both governmental support, and the supplemental support she would have left behind. 


Although this particular case is unfortunate, this happens more often than one might think. Fortunately, a properly prepared estate plan can save your loved ones from further heartache and from additional expenses, especially during such a difficult time. To put it simple, an estate plan can help you accomplish:


  • Conveying your final wishes to your loved ones
  • Ensuring privacy 
  • Minimize estate taxes
  • Continuous monitoring and updating your end of life care & finances


Additionally, trusts offer an array of protections that can be suited to fit your particular requests. Use this case, as well as countless others discussed in our Celebrity Monday blog as a learning experience to plan and prepare for the future because death is inevitable.  


If you or your loved ones have any questions about where to start, feel free to contact our office, so we can schedule a Family Legacy Meeting to help you figure out what kind of plan you need, how to achieve it, and what your next steps should be. 


About the Author: James

James Long is the founder of Regnum Legacy, and another legal resource website called "Regnum Legal." He graduated from the University of St. Thomas School of Law in 2010, and was immediately appointed to serve as an Expert for the Vatican at the United Nations. After 10 years as a litigator and estate and business planner, James decided to wave "goodbye" to litigation and focus solely on estate planning and transaction business issues.