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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)

 

This Explains Vegemite

In Australia, a man who was despondent after his wife left him drafted a text message to his brother saying that he wanted his brother and nephew to keep all that he had, told him where his cash was stashed, provided the PIN to his bank accounts, bashed his wife, then signed it “my will.” He did not send the message. After the man killed himself, a friend found the unsent message on his phone. A court has admitted the text message as the will of the deceased man.

A few points:

1. Although digital wills are around the corner, this would not work in Ohio because it was not witnessed nor signed.

2. Unsent? I find it similar to an unsigned will – there is not enough proof that this is his intent.

3. A court in Australia previously held that a will typed on an iPhone was valid.

4. At this rate, Australian courts will soon declare wills written with all emojis as valid.

Photo Credit:  news.com.au (?)

License:  Fair Use/Education  

Thomas Kinkade – Painter of Light, Writer of Illegible Will

My horrible prognostication abilities continue. If my prediction of a Romney landslide and a 9 game losing streak to end the fantasy football season were not enough, my earlier prediction of years of litigation to settle the dispute over Thomas Kinkades’s estate was also wrong. His estranged wife and his girlfriend of 6 months (although she preferred the term “soul mate”), settled their differences this week. No details were revealed.

The primary issue was the validity of 2 illegible handwritten wills made by Kinkade. Far be it from me to cast stones about one’s handwriting, but if someone is going to leave a handwritten will, it should at least be legible.

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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.