The Aretha Franklin Lesson of Estate Planning

Many famous and successful entertainers, including Prince, Farrah Fawcett and James Brown, neglected to leave a will. As many know, especially here in the Detroit area, the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin also neglected to have proper estate planning in place before her death.

The rich and famous are, of course, not exceptions to the need for proper end-of-life financial planning including estate planning. According to a 2017 report from, 58 percent of U.S. adults surveyed said they had no end-of-life plan. Why don’t the legal battles following the demise of celebrities dying intestate serve as red flags for the rest of us? Like most advisers, I’ve counseled plenty of clients who refuse to do estate planning. To many of them, making a will or drawing up a living trust means confronting the inevitability of their own death — and they just can’t deal with it.

Since Aretha Franklin died without a Will or Trust, her four sons and a niece will likely be fighting about who should be appointed as the executor (and other matters) in court regarding her estate. All five of them have already filed paperwork with the court.

Failing to have a Will or a Trust highlights misconceptions that continue to exist about Elder and Estate Law. Attorneys who concentrate on estate planning, like the Probate Law Firm of Thav and Ryke in Southfield Michigan, have a thorough understanding of the consequences and implications of your decisions and will help you avoid mistakes that can be easy to make and cost you and your loved ones time and money. Getting a customized estate plan can help people at all income and asset levels avoid a potentially costly and drawn-out estate administration or probate process.
Probate is the legal process of administering a decedents’ or disabled estate through the local Circuit Court system. Individuals with high net-worth may need to consider additional estate-tax implications.

There are countless benefits to having a well-drafted estate plan, including a well-drafted estate plan can allow you to bypass the probate process. This pre-planning and foresight saves the individual or family money as well as keeping their situation and affairs out of the public sphere. As noted above, if a probate proceeding is needed, the process will be handled in the local Orphan’s/Probate Court and is a public proceeding, allowing your family, friends and the general public access to your estate.

It may be frightening or overwhelming to plan for your own disability or death, a good estate plan will help ease your fears and prepare you and your family for the unknown. Creating documents such as a Power of Attorney for Property and Power of Attorney for Healthcare, allows you to name an individual (an “agent”) to handle your financial affairs and medical decisions for you if you should become disabled.  Informing your attorney of all the potential complicated matters ahead of time will allow him or her the opportunity to include provisions in your documents to safeguard against fighting family members, or a will or trust contest. Leaving your estate to your beneficiaries in a trust is an option allowing the Trustee to control how assets are invested, and when and in what amount distributions are made. This may help curtail any beneficiaries’ reckless spending or bad investment decisions.

Don’t be like Aretha and several other high profile individuals. Be prepared and leave an estate plan for your heirs. Having a will in place will make life much easier and less complicated for them. The Attorneys at Thav and Ryke in Detroit Michigan are here to help. Contact Andrew Thav or Jamie Ryke today to get started on your estate planning.