The number of high profile celebrities who die without making a Will never ceases to amaze, particularly when you consider the value of the estates which they leave behind and the expectation that they will have had access to legal teams offering advice on such matters. Sadly, in August, Aretha Franklin joined this list. Her estate, believed to be in the region of $80m (£62m), is likely to be split between her four sons, according to Michigan law.
As in Michigan, the law in England and Wales establishes that, in the absence of a surviving spouse or civil partner, the estate of a person who dies intestate would be split equally between any children.
However, because Ms. Franklin did not leave a Will, it is not certain whether the probable distribution of her estate corresponds with her wishes – and therein lies a potential problem. For the family of anyone who dies intestate (without a Will), attempts to second guess the true intentions of their deceased relative can invariably lead to disputes as to who the beneficiaries should be and what exactly they should inherit. In such situations, it is also possible that other individuals may make claims against the estate, the validity of which will be decided by the Courts. Without a Will in place, the administration can become very complex, stressful and costly for those involved.
Therefore, whether you are a legendary (and wealthy) soul singer or not, it is always a good idea to make advance provisions for your loved ones by making a Will. As well as ensuring that legal challenges and acrimony are avoided in the event of your death, the making of a Will allows you to determine how your estate is dealt with and provides peace of mind for all that your wishes are protected by law.
Wills provide options. They can be used to set up Trusts and tax-efficient structures to deal with financial affairs. They can also deliver cash legacies for charities or individuals. Moreover, a Will provides some certainty and protection at a difficult time.