Aretha Franklin’s estate administration complicated by 3 Wills
When the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin sadly passed away in August 2018 it was believed that she had died intestate, with no Will having been located despite her having a solicitor for over 40 years.
It has transpired however that the administration of her estate will be even more complex after 3 handwritten wills were found at her home, 2 of which were in a locked cabinet that the key hadn’t originally been found for, and a third was hidden under cushions in the living room. Two of the Wills are from 2010 and the other is dated March 2014. While the recent Will would ordinarily revoke the previous Wills if it was drafted correctly, the complexity of her estate continues with the fact that the Will was handwritten in a notebook, with parts of it scored out, comments written in the margins, and some parts difficult to decipher. Her own solicitor David Bennett submitted the Wills to the court and said he is not sure if they are compliant with the law. Separately, there has been legal action disputing who should act as a representative of the estate and two sons are objecting to the Wills.
While we as Will writing solicitors are always keen to stress the importance of making a Will to avoid the uncertainty, delay and administration often involved in dying intestate, this case highlights that in some cases the arrangements around making a Will can be so poor that it would have been administratively much easier to have had none at all. That however would not have allowed Aretha Franklin to set out her express wishes for her estate, and leaves us with the lesson that it is not enough to have a Will (or 3 Wills), but rather it is of the utmost importance to ensure that it is valid and does not provide for a situation that could create acrimony and uncertainty among your family after your death.
If you have made the important decision that it is time to make a Will, make one more good decision and arrange to write it with the guidance and assistance of a Will writing solicitor. It will cost more than some DIY will writing kits, but it is still a relatively inexpensive thing to do, and you will have a Will that is written and executed validly, will ensure that your wishes for your estate are followed, and will cause the least amount of upset to your family.