Aretha Franklin passed away last week. The legendary singer and musician will be greatly missed. Immediately after her death, it became apparent that Ms. Franklin did not have a will or a trust in place. This has really started a conversation about estate planning and its importance.
Yesterday, Wednesday, August 22nd, Bert Weiss and Kristin Klingshirn of The Bert Show on Q100 were discussing the importance of estate planning on their radio show. Kristin’s father has recently passed away and she has become very aware of all the stress and confusion that surround death. The hosts reminded their vast listening audience that estate planning is for everyone, and not just for the Aretha Franklins of the world.
Also on Wednesday, Sarah Siedentopf, Atlanta estate planning, and probate attorney, was interviewed on The Dana Barrett Show on Talk Radio 640 about what may happen to Aretha Franklin’s estate. Sarah was very excited to get the opportunity to do a segment on Dana’s show. You can watch the show segment HERE.
So, what will happen in Aretha Franklin’s estate? Ms. Franklin passed away leaving four sons. She was unmarried at the time of her death but was reported to be in a serious, long-term relationship with Willie Wilkerson. Due to her celebrity status, things move quickly and there have already been filings in the Oakland County, Michigan Probate Court, which has jurisdiction over her estate. (Find out what happens in Georgia if a person dies without a will in place.) Her sons have announced themselves as interested parties in Ms. Franklin’s estate, and her niece has requested to be appointed personal representative of her estate.
Because Ms. Franklin did not have a trust, the details of her estate and probate will eventually become public knowledge. However, at the moment, we do not have much information. What we do know is that under Michigan law, Ms. Franklin’s estate will be split between her four sons. Mr. Wilkerson, her reported long-time partner, will not receive anything from her estate as they were not married.
Although the federal estate tax exemption was raised significantly to $11.18 million in April of 2018, it is likely that Ms. Franklin’s assets will exceed that amount and some estate tax will be due. There will probably also be income tax due, both for Ms. Franklin personally and for her estate. It will be the duty of the personal representative of her estate to coordinate these matters with a CPA (certified public accountant) and to make sure that the correct taxes are paid.
Ms. Franklin might have had more privacy, be able to pay lower taxes, and/or provide for her significant other if she had done her estate planning. She could also have designated gifts for people other than her sons, such as other family members or charities. Her death is a huge loss, but it does remind us of the importance of making our wishes known through estate planning. Having a will in place means you actually have some control over what happens to your assets. Without this, your assets will be at the mercy of the courts and state law.
If you have any additional questions about the probate process or what happens when someone dies without a will, you can contact Atlanta estate planning and probate law firm Siedentopf Law at (404) 736-6066 or [email protected].
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