Aretha Didn’t Have an Estate Plan—But You Should

Aretha didn't have an Estate Plan, but You Should

Talking about estate plans


In the days following the death of music legend, Aretha Franklin, multiple news agencies began to report that she had passed away without an estate plan. Without a will or trust, Ms. Franklin’s estate is subject to the probate process and the laws of the state of Michigan, her state of residence upon her death. According to the probate documents, Ms. Franklin’s four sons are the heirs to her estate. However, even with clear heirs, an estate without a will can often lead to disagreements and, in turn, compounding legal expenses as heirs attempt to determine not only the lawful distribution of the estate but also what the decedent “would have wanted.” Other celebrity estates have struggled without a will or estate plan—most notably the estate of Prince. In that case, probate has been open since April of 2016 and, as of earlier this year, has already cost between six and nine million dollars in legal expenses and fees. 1


While your estate may not be as large as that of Aretha or Prince, it is still important to have an estate plan in place to avoid some of the same challenges.


Although your loved ones will still have to proceed through the probate process if you have a will, it will make your wishes abundantly clear. Rather than allowing state law to determine who should receive your assets, you will be able to state specifically who should receive what and how.

If you want to avoid probate altogether, a trust can help accomplish this and it is not only for the wealthy. A trust is incredibly useful if you want to ensure a quick and simple transfer of your assets after your death or if you want your assets protected and distributed a little bit at a time. For example, perhaps you have minor children and you want to protect your assets for them until they reach adulthood—a trust allows you to do this.

Whether your assets rival that of Aretha and Prince or, like most of us, you have a substantially smaller estate, an estate plan is crucially important to give your loved ones peace of mind after your passing and to help ensure that your wishes are followed. If you do not yet have an estate plan or your current documents need updating, please give us a call at 701-852-5224 to discuss your options.

1 Mark Eghrari, “Two Years Later, Prince’s Heirs Have Still Not Received A Penny Of His Estate,” Forbes.com, https://www.forbes.com/sites/markeghrari/2018/04/18/two-years-later-princes-heirs-have-still-not-received-a-penny-of-his-estate/#63a1ea333ab2 (accessed August 28, 2018).