13 June 2019

NINE months after soul singer Aretha Franklin died, three Wills have been located at her home. After her family thought that she had died intestate (with no Will) this should have been a welcome discovery but it’s not as simple as that. We can learn three lessons from this scenario.

Firstly, two of the Wills that had been locked away were dated 2010 with another handwritten note was dated 2014. Usually a new Will revokes the previous Will but it is unlikely that the 2014 Will is valid under Michigan law as Ms Franklin’s wishes are not clearly set out with amendments and alterations taking precedence over clarity. Lesson one: Do not attempt to draft your own Will. Ask a professional to listen to your instructions and let them draft your wishes so that they are clear, concise and valid.

Secondly, the time that has lapsed between the death and the locating of the Wills means that people have already started to administer the estate and make decisions over the distribution of the $80 million estate. The combined information of the Wills has cast doubt on who should be administering the estate and how. Lesson two: don’t leave finding your Will or any other wishes to chance. You can either make sure your executors ( people that administer your Will) know that they are your executors and where your Will is located or use Certainty, the National Will Register, so that your Will is registered to a firm of solicitors and can be tracked down within hours.

Thirdly, the discovery of the Wills has caused upset amongst Ms Frankin’s sons. Two of her sons are claiming that the 2014 is invalid but one son insists that it should be followed. Court cases are therefore being held which will not only be costly but will cause delay in the estate administration at an already sad and difficult time. Lesson three: Do try and avoid family feuds. Be clear about who you want to appoint as your executors and leave as much information as you can to assist them. Delays in the administration can sometimes lead to a decrease in the monetary value of assets which leads to tension and the estate may dwindle further due to the costs involved when beneficiaries cannot agree on what they should do with certain assets.

To make sure your wishes are clear and comprehensive contact Sally Manning on 01963 407060 or and get the RESPECT you and your loved ones deserve.

More information on our wills and trusts services here.