According to court documents, legendary singer Aretha Franklin did not have a will when she died, which, as you may be thinking, opened her $80 million estate to numerous complexities and problems.
When someone dies without a will, the estate is distributed in accordance with estate law. The associated probate process is lengthy and public.
If Franklin, who was reportedly very private during her lifetime, had created an estate plan that included a trust, she could have avoided probate and kept the details of her financial circumstances private.
In addition, by not having a will, her estate became vulnerable to potential challenges or even litigation, which can become very costly to heirs in terms of court costs, legal fees and loss of assets.
Also, because Franklin did not proactively plan her estate, the estate will be subject to unnecessary estate taxation. Although she may not have been able to avoid estate tax entirely, there are steps she could have taken to reduce the amount her estate will have to pay.
LESSON 1: A Will allows you to ensure that your assets will go to the people you want instead of by statute.
LESSON 2: A Trust takes your estate plan another step further. It is a private document you design yourself and, if correctly funded, a Trust avoids court involvement.
In addition, a Trust can minimize stress, reduce taxes, court costs, and attorneys’ fees, and can cover a myriad of issues relating to distribution, including young children, disabled beneficiaries, financial problems, marriage issues and dissension.
LESSON 3: Even if you don’t have Aretha Franklin’s assets, the lessons are the same. Being proactive and creating an estate plan during your life makes life easier for loved ones after your death.