Recently, legendary singer Aretha Franklin passed away. And almost as quickly as news of her death spread, reports that she died without a will or trust spread as well.
While it seems strange that someone with such a massive fortune did not create an estate plan, unfortunately, this is not unusual. Many adults pass away without having any type of estate planning documents in place. When this happens, a person's wishes will have little or no bearing on the management of their estate.
Thinking about your family's experience
If you think you don't need a will, consider what Franklin's family will likely experience in the wake of her passing. They must go through a public probate process and petition the courts to be listed as interested parties and identify a personal representative. In high-profile cases like this one, there can also be challenges stemming from illegitimate parties claiming to be beneficiaries.
They may also confront challenges in terms of finding and distributing assets without direction from Franklin. Considering the size and complexity of her estate, which is estimated to be worth about $80 million, distributing the assets could be a lengthy and contentious process.
Thinking about what you want
When a person dies without a will, his or her property passes in accordance with a state's intestacy laws. In other words, it won't matter if you want to donate money to a charity, set up a college fund for a grandchild or distribute large sums of money to your children in installments. Unless you documented these and other wishes in an estate plan, they will likely not happen.
Ensuring others can (and will) respect your wishes
An estate plan is more than just a legal document. It is a valuable and enforceable guide for what you want and how your loved ones should handle your affairs. To give others the opportunity and authority to administer your estate in a manner you deem fit, you can work with an estate planning attorney to create the comprehensive plan you and your family deserve.