Naperville Estate Planning Attorney Discusses the Passing of a Music Legend

Naperville estate planning lawyersShe was larger than life on stage and on the silver screen, but Aretha Franklin was known for being intensely private in regard to personal matters. Unfortunately, when the Queen of Soul passed away from pancreatic cancer earlier this month, she apparently did so without any type of will or trust in place to protect her estate—an estate that some experts have valued at about $80 million.

As an estate planning attorney, I can hardly help but watch with disappointment as one celebrity death after another comes with the report that the famous individual failed to plan ahead. Such was reportedly the case for Michael Jackson in 2009, Prince in 2016, and now Aretha Franklin.

Representation but No Planning

Following the soul legend’s death, her four sons filed a document in Oakland County (Michigan) court listing themselves as interested parties. The men also nominated Franklin’s niece to serve as the personal representative—similar to the role of an executor in Illinois. In the filings, at least one son checked a box that acknowledged the absence of a will.

According to reports, Franklin worked closely with Los Angeles entertainment attorney Don Wilson for nearly 30 years. Wilson represented Franklin on matters related to her musical career. “I was after her for a number of years to do a trust,” Wilson told the Detroit Free Press. “It would have expedited things and kept them out of probate, and kept things private.”

Due to the nature of his relationship with Franklin’s career, Wilson is certain that any attorney who had prepared an estate plan for the entertainer would have contacted him. He was responsible for Franklin’s record deals, publishing rights, and copyright protections, all of which would have been important considerations for a will or any type of trust.

Just as in Illinois, Michigan law provides that if an unmarried person with surviving children dies without an estate plan, the decedent’s assets are to be divided equally among his or her children. Unfortunately, things are rarely that simple when the estate is as large as Franklin’s. “Any time they don’t leave a trust or will,” Wilson said, “there always ends up being a fight.” Because the fight will likely take place in probate court, it will probably become a matter of public record—with little of the privacy that Aretha Franklin preferred during her life.

Contact Us for Help

While you may not have an estate as large as Aretha Franklin’s, planning for the future can give your family the security and peace of mind they deserve. Contact a Naperville estate planning attorney to discuss your available options. Call 630-756-1160 for a confidential consultation at The Gierach Law Firm today.



Detroit Free Press

The New York Times