The Importance of Drafting a Will: The Case of Aretha Franklin


If you have ever wondered if it is worth the time and effort to draft a will, look no further than the Aretha Franklin estate for your answer. Aretha Franklin left an eighty-million-dollar estate comprised of the assets of her musical legacy, and it was initially presumed that she left no will. When someone dies without a will, the estate is considered intestate. Much like in Michigan where Aretha died, New Hampshire law pursuant to RSA 561:1 provides that where a person dies intestate and without a spouse, the children will equally inherit everything. Or as Aretha might have sung, “I-N-T-E-S-T-A-T-E, now my estate is no longer controlled by me.” (Sorry, Aretha, for butchering Respect).

You may think, “I live in Nashua (insert your town), New Hampshire, why does this multi-million-dollar estate have any relevance in my life?” The size of the estate is not the determining factor on the difficulties your family will face if you fail to leave a will. If you die without a will, then the state can determine how your estate gets distributed without any input from you; or worse yet, your family may be left fighting over the assets of the estate as in the case of the estate of Aretha Franklin.

Aretha may have been the Queen of Soul, but the status of her estate is far from royal. Complicating matters, hand-written wills were found in Aretha’s home, including one under her sofa cushions. The court in Michigan may consider these wills in determining Aretha’s intent. Now, Aretha’s four sons are at odds with one another trying to determine the intent of their mother and the way in which the assets should be distributed. If Aretha had taken the time to visit an attorney and had a valid will drafted, then chaos and discord could have been avoided.    

It may be too late for Aretha, but it’s not too late for you. Make sure you have your estate in order so that your heirs don’t have to figure things out after you are gone. An attorney can make sure that your will is valid in New Hampshire and can use her legal expertise to ensure your will represents your desires, which may not be the case if you handwrite your will or rely on an internet sample.

For more information on Wills or general estate planning and administration, probate or trust matters please contact the attorneys at Welts, White & Fontaine PC.  Please contact us by clicking here or by calling (603) 883-0797. Welts, White & Fontaine is one of Nashua’s largest, multi-practice law firms and serves the legal needs of both individuals and businesses in towns such as Amherst, Milford, Hudson, Brookline, Windham, Hollis, Merrimack, Litchfield, Bedford, Londonderry, Pelham, and, of course, Nashua.

Author: Davi Peters

This blog is intended for informational use only. The information contained herein should not be construed as offering legal advice or a legal opinion.

Welts, White & Fontaine, P.C.

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