Following the death of Aretha Franklin, it was reported that she did not have a will or trust. Although the Queen of Soul’s estate has been estimated to be worth $80 million, she never took the time to plan her estate. Don Wilson, her attorney for nearly three decades had tried to convince her for years to do a trust, but she never followed his advice. Now the financial affairs of the reportedly very private Aretha Franklin will be available for the public to see in probate court.
Failing to have an estate plan is not limited to the rich and famous; in fact, it’s a common problem. A recent study by Caring.com determined that nearly 6 out of 10 adult Americans do not have a will or trust. Often the reason is procrastination – “I just haven’t got around to it.” Others believe that fear of not wanting to face death also contributes to the lack of end of life planning.
Aretha Franklin’s failure to plan her estate shouldn’t come as a surprise as there are numerous examples of other entertainers who also did not have a will or trust. Not only were their estate proceedings public, but also the drama that typically ensues in probate court. Prince of course being a recent example as well as Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Sonny Bono, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley.
Most of us have very little in common with celebrities, yet we can learn some valuable lessons of what not to do when planning our estates. Here are a few:
No estate plan. This one should be pretty obvious. You are going to die, probably sooner than you think. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor, plan your estate.
Update your estate plan.When Heath Ledger died at age 28, he had failed to update his will (which had left everything to his parents) to include his daughter. Fortunately, a court battle was avoided when his father agreed that Heath’s daughter would inherit everything.
Fully fund your trust. An unfunded trust will likely require a probate estate to be opened – undermining a common reason for a trust.
Do not write your own. Sometimes celebrities think they can write their own will – baseball legend Ted Williams, painter Thomas Kincaid, and actor Gary Coleman to name a few. You are likely to make matters worse by handling it yourself.
If you’re looking for a good example to follow, Elvis Presley had a will and testamentary trust when he died. Like the king of rock ‘n’ roll, make sure your estate planning is in order so your family will be able to say “thankyouverymuch.”