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Oh Me, Oh My

As I have written previously, when Aretha Franklin died last August, she was presumed to have died intestate (without a will). Her niece, Sabrina Owens, was then designated as the estate administrator. Since then, three handwritten documents purporting to be her will(s) have surfaced. Franklin’s youngest son, Kecalf Franklin, has asked the probate court to be appointed as representative of the estate. One of his brothers supports him in this request while two others oppose him. The filing of one brother said that Kecalf has never demonstrated the ability or willingness to support himself and lacks the financial knowledge to serve as executor. After a court hearing last week, for now, the niece remains in control of the estate with decisions subject to court approval.

Two points:

1, Kecalf does not seem qualified to serve as executor so keeping him out of the process seems good for now.

2. Gosh. If someone has pancreatic cancer, prepare a will. Time is of the essence.

Sister Is Doing It For Herself

When Aretha Franklin died last August, she was reported to have died without a will.  The administration of her estate proceeded accordingly.  This week her lawyer of 40 years said that her family had found three handwritten wills, two from 2010 and one from 2014, in her house.  The 2010 wills were in a locked cabinet while the 2014 will was in a spiral notebook under a couch cushion.  The wills look like gibberish at first glance.  A court will determine their validity in June.

Several points:

1.  Michigan law provides that wills should be signed in the presence of two witnesses (same as Ohio).

2.  Michigan allows for holographic (i.e. handwritten) wills if it is certain the writing is intended to be the person’s will and it is dated. 

3.  Writing in a spiral notebook under a couch cushion rarely looks to be the final thoughts regarding the disposition of one’s assets even if dated.

4.  If someone has millions of dollars and millions more in expected music royalties, she should pay a lawyer to prepare a properly drafted will and trust and let the attorney keep it so there is no posthumous doubt about her wishes.  Get it right.

 

Photo Credit:  Mary Altaffer for AP

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

 

Chain of Fools

When Aretha Franklin died last week after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, she allegedly did not leave a will. She is survived by her four sons, one of whom has special needs, who will receive equal shares of her estate. Her niece asked to be appointed as representative of her $80 million estate. Aretha’s copyright attorney told reporters that when there is no will, “there will always end up being a fight.”

Some points of relevant interest:

1. No one wins a long battle with pancreatic cancer. See Jobs, Steve.  Prepare a will.

2. When a woman dies without a will, there should not be much to dispute because there are no illegitimate children to contest heirship.

3. The niece’s fee for serving as personal rep. could be $1.6 million.  One of the sons should have dibs on this role.

4. Surprisingly, Madonna did not ask to be appointed as personal representative.  

Photo Credit:  Jae C. Hong/AP

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Contact Me

All Posts By Jay Brinker

I am an attorney located in Cincinnati, Ohio who practices in the areas of estate planning, probate, asset protection, and small business advice. I make a difficult and bewildering process as simple as possible. Most importantly, I provide "more for less" for my clients.