From humble beginnings, Aretha grew into a world-renowned singer/songwriter, the likes of which no one had ever heard before. Aretha was not only known for her singing and performances though, but she was also a passionate supporter of women’s and civil rights, as often reflected in her music. Unknown to many, Aretha donated significant funds to different civil rights groups during the 60s and 70s, often covering payrolls and providing performances that contributed all proceeds to such causes. I will also never forget her performance of “Think” in The Blues Brothers, adding to her legacy of social justice for women, while having a sense of humor at the same time.
All of these endeavors, one would assume would also be represented in Aretha’s projected $80 million estate. However, unfortunately this most likely will not happen, because it has recently been discovered that, Aretha is one of several celebrities to have recently passed away intestate, i.e. without a will. This may have numerous negative consequences for her estate and certainly won’t completely be what she would have hoped for.
First of all, probate is public, opening up her estate to public scrutiny and potential disputes. During this process, the court will not respect the Queen of Soul’s privacy. Failing to create a plan for her estate will certainly cause numerous problems for her four sons, who’ve recently submitted documents in Oakland County, notifying the court she did indeed not have a will. Most likely, this process was carried out by at least one attorney on their behalf, already cutting into the estate. This process will not only be open to the public to contest where her finances should go, but make a public record of the entire process for months and maybe years on end.
Also, since Aretha did not pre plan for her estate, she may be subject to unnecessary taxation that could have been avoided. Between probate, attorney fees, excess taxation, and possible disputes between the appointed beneficiaries, a significant portion of Aretha’s estate will be lost to things she certainly would have liked to have avoided.
Recent statistics say 64% of Americans don’t have a will and the number is significantly higher for younger Americans. Within the population that does not have a will, 60% say they just haven’t gotten around to making one, 27% don’t think it is imperative to get one done, and the rest do not intend of ever completing one. Reasons for not getting one done is often busyness and or they don’t believe they have enough to worry about. However, this is often simply not true. Most individuals of Aretha’s generation, and my own, at least own their own home, a significant asset that needs protecting and certainly shouldn’t have to be sold due to the expenses of probate. The simple fact that completing an estate plan is cheaper and much less time consuming than probate immediately eliminates the two most common excuses for not getting one done.
If you want to ensure that you make the right decisions for your own family when considering life and estate planning decisions, feel free to sit down and talk with us for a free consultation by calling (913) 491-6332, visit our website berger-lawfirm.com or stop by our conveniently located offices at 11233 Nall, Suite 140 Leawood, KS 66211 for more information. Berger Estate & Elder Law P.A. has been providing our clients with Trusted Counsel and Proactive Solutions for over 30 years, and we look forward to many more!