Butler Law

With no will, questions arise over singer Franklin's estate

Myrtle Beach residents, like most Americans, were saddened to hear of the passing of legendary vocalist Aretha Franklin. It may come as a surprise to learn that the Queen of Soul did not leave a will, and questions circulate regarding what will happen to her estate.

Franklin's estate is worth millions even without the catalog of her recorded music; she owned several multi-million dollar homes in the Midwest. Regarding her music, unlike many artists, she held on to the rights to the songs that she wrote and often shared in the copyrights to music that others wrote and she performed. But it will be challenging to determine the value of that catalog, in part because of the surge in demand for her music shortly after her death - a greatest hits compilation, for example, shot to the number one spot on iTunes that same day.

Franklin did, however, have a number of issues with debt. She forfeited several homes towards unpaid tax bills in the last years of her life. She was also reportedly sued dozens of times by professional service providers over unpaid bills. Some debts remain unpaid, and her creditors will therefore want to have their say in the distribution of her assets.

Estate planning professionals expect that Franklin's four sons will share in the majority of the eventual distribution. Without a will or trust, however, it is difficult to say how much that will be or when it will occur. The lesson should not be lost on Myrtle Beach residents with more traditional estates and assets than those of Aretha Franklin: completing some basic estate planning steps with the assistance of a legal professional can save stress on one's beneficiaries and help ensure that the testator's wishes are implemented in an expeditious manner.

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