Recently, fans of Aretha Franklin had to cope with the news of her pending and
eventual death. The loss of a musical legend, like Ms. Franklin, typically comes with extensive
news coverage. Unfortunately, that coverage frequently includes a headline that the celebrity
never completed an estate plan.
Recent reports indicate that Ms. Franklin had a net worth of approximately $80 million and has
not completed a will, much less the multiple trusts she likely needed. Her estate will now need
to be handled as a public court proceeding rather than a private matter. Her family may very
well end up fighting over the money and she likely also missed the opportunity to save a
fortune in estate taxes for her family.
She’s not the only celebrity to fail to plan. In 2016, the musician, Prince, also died without a will
and his estate is currently being managed very publicly by a bank. His siblings are complaining
that the bank fees (currently in the millions of dollars) are eroding their potential inheritance.
Other public figures who passed on without a will include Martin Luther King Jr., Amy
Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and even Abraham Lincoln. Michael Jackson apparently
did have a will, but many of his family members contest its validity.
Why does this happen? I suggest that the question has a simple answer: thinking about illness
and dying simply isn’t something we like to do. We don’t like to accept our mortality and we
don’t want to answer uncomfortable questions like who would be in charge of my affairs and
who is (or isn’t) going to get an inheritance. Like it or not though, at some point life is going to
ask these questions of you. It’s best to know the answers ahead of time.
The process of planning begins with education about your options and what questions you
should be asking. Consider attending our free educational workshop to learn more.