The music legend and "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin passed away on August 16 of pancreatic cancer. While this is certainly a blow to music fans in New Jersey and worldwide, it is also blow to her loved ones left behind, in part because Franklin did not have an estate plan at the time of her death.
Because Franklin did not have a will or trust, her estate must be probated. This is a public process. Per state laws of intestate succession, her four sons will receive the proceeds of her estate and will share them equally. This is because if a person has no will or trust and does not have a surviving spouse at the time of his or her death, his or her estate will be shared between his or her children in equal portions.
Reportedly Franklin still owned the original compositions of her songs, and some sources reported her estate is worth $80 million. Franklin's niece moved the court to be appointed the personal representative of Franklin's estate. It remains to be seen exactly how her estate will be distributed, and what will be left after taxes and other costs are paid out.
Franklin is not the only music superstar to die without an estate plan. Music fans may remember that music superstar Prince died without a will or trust, leaving behind a complicated probate situation. It is hoped that Franklin's estate will not share a similar fate, but sometimes when a person dies without an estate plan, people come out of the woodwork trying to claim a part of the estate. Fights between survivors can arise, taxes must be paid from estate assets and all of these matters become part of the public record. While Franklin's death is tragic, it does highlight the importance of estate planning, not just for you but for your loved ones as well.