Is Aretha Franklin’s Will Found In Her Couch Valid?

Aretha Franklin's star on walk of fame
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Aretha Franklin's star on walk of fame
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When it comes to estate planning – clarity rules.

Aretha Franklin’s passing resulted in drawn out litigation over the past 4 years that has finally ended with a two-day trial. Ms. Franklin handwrote a will in 2014 that was located in her couch and has been determined to be controlling of her estate.

Aretha Franklin and her estate planning

When the icon initially passed away, it was believed she did not have a will or trust in place. According to the intestate laws in Michigan, her four sons would have divided her estate in equal shares. After the matter was opened, two handwritten documents were located in Ms. Franklin’s home, one in a locked cabinet and another in her couch. Both documents had details regarding distribution of various assets. Both documents created a less even distribution of assets, and one required two of her sons to obtain business certifications in order to collect their inheritance.

Michigan, like Virginia, allows for use of “holographic” wills. A holographic will is one that is entirely handwritten by the testator and signed. In Virginia, a holographic will is as valid as a more formal, notarized document. The two documents both met the requirements for a holographic will but appeared to have different intents. The jury was left to determine what Ms. Franklin’s true wishes were.

When Ms. Franklin died, her estate was valued at $18 Million Dollars. Her estate also includes licensing and royalty rights that will continue to generate income for her beneficiaries.

The trial in Ms. Franklin’s case highlights the importance of clarity in an estate plan. Leaving beneficiaries wondering or conflicted only leads to further rifts in the family – and in this case the parties have incurred several thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees. By creating a plan now, you can save your heirs in the long run, and keep the peace in your family.

If you have questions about your estate plan and will or need help updating or modifying your estate plan, the attorneys at Melone Hatley, P.C. can help. We understand the ins and outs of estate planning and can provide you with the legal assistance you need to ensure that your family is set for when you are no longer around. Schedule a free initial meeting with our Client Service Coordinators today to see how we can help you.

Rebecca Melone

Written By Rebecca Melone

Rebecca Melone established Melone Hatley P.C. in 2014 with the goal of helping families with a range of legal services from estate and family law to traffic tickets and misdemeanor criminal matters.
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