Does Your Favorite Celebrity Have an Estate Plan?

From the outside looking into an artist’s life, it is easy to make assumptions about the professionals a star employs when we watch them on the stage, field, or big screen. One of those assumptions may be their estate planning is secured. After all, most have entourages, professional advisors, and legal counsel in their support circle. However, when it comes to planning, particularly estate planning, we’ve seen several instances when the star in question exudes very ‘normal’ human tendencies. Normal in that it is estimated that only 3 out of 10 individuals have a simple will and only 4 out of 10 American adults have a will or living trust.

The most recent case of an artist failing to protect her legacy is Aretha Franklin.

Fondly remembered as the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin passed away in August 2018 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.  While her music will live on for generations to come, her estate will also live on – unfortunately in a probate court.  At the center of her disputed estate, estimated worth millions, are three of her four sons, not all of whom agree on how to divvy up their mother’s treasure. Throw in disagreement on what constitutes her “true will” and you have the makings of an ensuing expensive and messy court case which keep multiple lawyers busy.

I’ve seen this scenario play out time and time again in my 20+ years as an estate planning attorney.

There are two main lessons we can learn from the Franklin case to help prevent similar rifts in your legacy planning.

1.   Franklin’s personal attorney repeatedly recommended that she do formal estate planning. Aretha did what most people do – procrastinate and then take matters in her own hands without guidance.  She hand-wrote some notes and stuffed them in a closet. She then updated that handwritten “will” four years later and stuffed that version in a couch.  In Michigan where the case is being tried, handwritten last wishes are considered legal.  But which of these documents has precedence is at the crux of the dispute between Franklin’s heirs.

2.     Regardless of the value of your estate whether farm, ranch or business, you have to expect disagreements after you pass.  As painful as it is to admit, not everyone you leave behind will agree with your estate plan.  However, detailing your wishes in a comprehensive estate plan can head off, and in most cases quell expensive and emotionally draining legal fights.

Throwing up your hands with a “they (your heirs) will figure it out after I’m gone” mentality only leaves your heirs hanging and your legacy open to a legal wrestling match which will fuel family discord for generations.

At the BorkusLaw Group, we take a thoughtful, compassionate approach to helping you plan your legacy the way you envision it coupled with the goal to prevent long, drawn out proceedings like Aretha Franklin’s case.  You may not have written a generational anthem like “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” but you can provide your family legacy the respect it deserve.

If you would like to talk more about your specific situation, contact our team at Borkuslaw Group today and make a live or remote appointment!

Please note that information contained in this news alert is not and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion nor does this information alert create an attorney-client relationship

About the Author: Randall Borkus

We believe that business succession, asset protection and estate planning are less about numbers and much more about helping people preserve, protect, and provide for who and what is most important to them.