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  • InsideTrack
  • July 19, 2023

    Aretha Franklin’s Handwritten Will Dispute Is a Lesson in Estate Planning

    Five years after her death in 2018, a jury settled a family dispute over the estate of renowned singer Aretha Franklin. It's another reminder that adding estate planning to your practice can help families avoid conflicts following the death of a loved one.
    silhouette of singer

    July 19, 2023 – It took a jury less than an hour to determine that a handwritten document, found in a couch, is a valid will for the estate of singer Aretha Franklin, according to a July 11, 2023, story from AP News.

    Franklin, called the “Queen of Soul” and renowned for her vocals on songs like “Think,” “Respect,” and “Chain of Fools,” died in 2018 at age 76. She left behind no formal will – resulting in a five-year dispute among her children regarding her estate in Michigan. When a family member scoured her Detroit home for documents in 2019, the handwritten will, dated 2014, was found with other documents under couch cushions. The 2014 version indicated different shares of her estate to two of her sons than a 2010 version.

    The effort to determine Franklin’s wishes resulted in the five-year dispute between her sons. In Wisconsin, the efforts to settle her estate would likely also have resulted in a jury trial.

    But as a lawyer, you can help families avoid such a trial with “Drafting Your First Will or Trust 2023” from State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE®.

    If you’re new to estate planning and want to offer estate planning services to your existing clients, or if you’re interested in a refresher, Reg P. Wydeven, a partner at McCarty Law LLP in Appleton, offers step-by-step guidance on each provision in a basic will and trust.

    Wydeven will break down the core components you should address when creating wills and trusts for your clients, including:

    • identifying a testator or settlor;

    • client directives and options;

    • disaster/failure of beneficiaries clauses;

    • payment of debts, taxes, and expenses;

    • distribution of property;

    • survivorship requirements/provisions; and

    • powers of personal representatives and trustees, and more.

    The 2.0 CLE session is available via webcast on select dates beginning July 25 through Dec. 9, 2023. Find out more on WisBar’s Marketplace.

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