Aretha Franklin may not have needed much help in singing some of the most memorable songs of the 20th Century, but she could have used a lot of help in drafting her testamentary documents. As a result, there is sure to be a fight over her assets in the estate courts of her home state of Michigan.
Initially, it was believed that the singer of R-E-S-P-E-C-T did not have a Will, meaning that she when she died in August 2018, she died intestate. That would have resulted in a division of her assets to her next of kin pursuant to a statutory formula under Michigan law. Likely, her surviving children would have split her assets.
However, three hand-written Wills have been found at her Detroit home, including one under the sofa. Franklin apparently gave no respect to the probate rules as they were not notarized or signed with witnesses present. The Wills, however, may pass muster under Michigan law as it allows for handwritten wills if the will is dated and signed. The court there will have to determine whether the Wills were in Ms. Franklin’s handwriting.
In Florida, litigation over the procedural necessities of a Will is commonplace, as is litigation over the capacity of the testator and whether a beneficiary unduly influenced the testator to devise assets in a manner inconsistent with the testator’s wishes. As a result, it is imperative that you contact an attorney experienced with the statutory requirements of wills and trusts and in that area of law.
If a litigation results from any of these issues or the unclear nature of conflicting Wills and Trusts (like in Ms. Franklin’s case), contact an experienced probate litigator. Cotzen Law has successfully litigated a variety of probate issues throughout the last twenty years.