Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, was recently laid to rest. Her service was like no other in our history. Musicians from all genres came out to pay respects with praise and song for a women who battled against the odds to become one of the true legends of our time. The Queen of Soul, died at 76 years old, from pancreatic cancer, without a will. She was unmarried but had four children. Sounds simple enough, right? Everything goes to her kids, right? Hold up – not so fast.
When a person passes on without a will, the laws of the state or jurisdiction shall dictate how their property is divided. When there are children, this usually means the estate is divided equally amongst them. This division may be different than the way the very same person would have his or her property by will. For example, a parent may want to give more to a child or less to another. In Aretha’s case, one of her sons has special needs. Because of this, he has a representative and may try to set forth a claim that he needs a larger percentage of the estate than the other three children. Having a Court and the law dictate the disbursement of an estate, in the public eye, can make things complicated (and more emotional).
However, celebrities often see a large number of lawsuits filed against the estate for a multitude of reasons. Many artists have contractual requirements with promoters, record labels, agents and more. Lawsuits staking claims against the estate will be forthcoming citing monies due for services unpaid before the celebrity got ill. Conversely, the question of royalties and post-humous income are now at issue when a celebrity passes. Because celebrities own several properties, there may be lawsuits for settlements on outstanding taxes or other bills, including leases or mortgages. Naturally when a celebrity dies, there will always be opportunists who attempt to commit fraud. These will be those who file suit claiming they are owed money for services they never provided. There will be distant relatives who may claim Ms. Franklin intended for them to receive a portion of the estate. And of course, the family members themselves may file to contest the state laws, claiming that one deserves to receive more than another for one reason or another.
Most people don’t have the celeb status or a high value estate, like Aretha, but still have various issues to navigate with their estate. The idea is to prevent your family from arguing about what happens and to prevent litigation (as much as one can). Having your wishes written down is important for the creation of your will. Regardless of the size of your estate, it provides for your family and loved ones after you are gone. It ensures that your wishes are carried out. If you have someone you wish to care for after you are gone, this is your opportunity. If you have a person you wish to purposely leave out, this is your opportunity. Laws are specific and when you do not have your wishes written, state laws will prevail.
If you have not created a will or other written instrument to protect or provide for your family after you have gone, contact our office. We will work with you to see that your needs are met.