We all love and R-E-S-P-E-C-T Aretha for her work and wisdom about life, but she “died embarrassed” in at least one respect: no estate plan!
There is so much potential to harm family when one fails to plan properly. She clearly had time to plan, and was urged to plan by her attorneys.
Putting aside for the moment the potential for conflict among family members, which still remains possible and even likely due to the huge sums involved ($80 million estate), the lack of any advanced tax planning means that almost 40% of the estate will be unnecessarily lost to estate taxes even in this age of nosebleedingly high estate tax exemptions where only a tiny fraction of a percent of families ever actually pay such a tax!
And then of course there are the more typical downsides of probate in terms of cost, delay, and public record. Those alone can lead to conflict!
“I was after her for a number of years to do a trust,” said Los Angeles attorney Don Wilson, who represented Franklin in entertainment matters for the past 28 years. “It would have expedited things and kept them out of probate, and kept things private.”
As Franklin’s attorney in copyright matters, song publishing and record deals, Wilson said he would have been consulted about her holdings for any estate planning purposes.
Franklin’s decision to not create a will before she died could prompt a court battle over her assets by creditors or extended family members seeking a portion of her estate. One case Wilson has been involved with is that of musician Ike Turner, whose estate is still being litigated 11 years after his death.
“I just hope (Franklin’s estate) doesn’t end up getting so hotly contested,” Wilson said. “Any time they don’t leave a trust or will, there always ends up being a fight.”
Wilson said many people, famous and not, fail to prepare a will.
“Nobody likes to give careful thought to their own demise,” he said.