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  • Writer's pictureCook Tillman

Aretha Franklin’s passing leaves estate in limbo

The Queen of Soul passed away earlier this year at 76 after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. The music icon died without a will, which creates uncertainty about her estate. There are no directions for handling her considerable assets–an estimated $80 million.

Michigan law dictates dividing the estate equally among Franklin’s four sons. However, extended relatives have already challenged this process. Her niece has filed to become the executor of Aretha’s entire estate, which will undoubtedly be challenged by other family members.

These legal battles can take months or years to resolve. They add even more stress to an already difficult time for family and friends of the great singer.

Artists tend to have complicated finances, and Aretha Franklin was no different. She likely had a variety of assets, including song licenses and royalty agreements. On top of those, there are the standard collection of investments and property.

Someone must now evaluate these assets to determine their worth. Then a judge will decide who has the most claim to them. It isn’t the tribute Aretha deserves. Unfortunately, estate arguments are common after someone passes away without any directive.

Franklin could have saved her family a lot of time and money if she had her wishes documented with a trust or a will, but sadly that was not the case. Those closest to the Queen of Soul must now fight over her property.

Few people will achieve what Aretha Franklin did in her life, but everyone can learn from her passing. Estate planning eliminates uncertainty when we die. Clear directions mean family doesn’t have to wonder about our intentions. This saves loved ones a lot of frustration and uncertainty.

If you’re curious about the process of creating a will or the options that are available to musicians and performers, an attorney familiar with Tennessee’s estate planning laws can help.


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