When Aretha Franklin passed away in August following a battle with pancreatic cancer, she joined a list of high profile celebrities who have died without executing a last will and testament. Those other celebrities include Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. Of course, Prince also died without leaving a will and over two years later the family is still trying to work out the details of settling his estate.
Without creating a will or trust to give direction to her family members regarding her estate valued at $80 million, Franklin gave no guidance on how she wanted it divided. Now her loved ones will not only be mourning her passing, but they may be entangled in the same type of long-term estate struggle that many other people find themselves in.
Hearing about high profile entertainers dying without a will is a good time to explain the importance of creating an estate plan. It is not just high-asset entertainers forgoing estate planning, statistics show that 60 percent of Americans have not created a will or living trust. This means that over half the people reading this right now do not have any type of estate planning in place.
Why have a will?
When you create a will, you are leaving a legal document that details how you want your final wishes to be carried out. You can dictate in a will how you want your loved ones to manage your property and the details of how you want your children taken care of. When there is no guidance regarding your property once you are gone, your family and any other parties will be left to fight for themselves to claim portions of your estate.
When happens if you do not leave a will?
When you pass away without a will, the term for this is “dying intestate.” At this point your estate will be overseen and distributed by state law. When other people are making the decisions about your estate it means that the distribution can easily be against the wishes of what you wanted. When you do not leave a will, the effects may be the hardest on children who may not be taken care of financially or have the right guardians put in place for them.
It does not matter that your estate may not be as valuable as a high-profile entertainer, but it should be of extreme importance that you have some type of estate planning in place. By doing so, you will keep stress and confusion away from your family and allow them to grieve at your passing. Completing some type of estate planning can also give you peace of mind.