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What Happens When You Die Without a Will?

Aretha Franklin’s death was a shock to fans who enjoyed the Queen of Soul’s powerful music. What may be even more shocking was that she left behind a massive estate without a will. She reportedly was worth $80 million and had no will.

Unfortunately, dying without a will is not an uncommon situation. Many people—even the rich and famous—fail to understand the importance of estate planning. Aretha Franklin was not the first celebrity to die intestate, and she most likely will not be the last. In the past few years, celebrities such as Prince and Anthony Bourdain have also died without a will.

When a person has a significant estate without a will, it can cause complications upon their death. Their assets may be distributed to the wrong people. It can cause a massive tax liability and lead to disagreements and tension among family members.

It is shocking that Aretha Franklin died without a will, given that she was ill for several years. She also has a special-needs son who needs financial support. She must have known that she would eventually die from pancreatic cancer. However, many people are unable to face death and therefore do not view estate planning as a priority.

Aretha Franklin’s Legacy

Before dying from cancer on August 16 at age 76, Aretha Franklin had a music career that spanned more than 50 years. Known for her hits “Respect” and “A Natural Woman,” Franklin was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She had a whopping 88 Billboard hit songs in total. During the peak of her career from 1967 to 1975, she had more than 25 hit songs. Known as the Queen of Soul, Franklin also won 18 Grammy awards.

What Happens Now?

Franklin lived in Detroit, Michigan at the time of her death. Under state law, given that she died without a will, her assets will go to her heirs. This means that her $80 million estate will be split evenly among her four children. It is believed that Franklin’s assets include a house, cash, stocks, bonds, brokerage accounts and investments. An executor will be appointed by the court to distribute the assets.

Because there was no will, Franklin’s assets must go through the probate process. The court costs and legal fees could reduce her estate significantly. This also means that information about her assets will become public knowledge.

Contact an Estate Planning Lawyer Today

Dying without a will is common, but if you have significant assets or have special circumstances, such as a special needs child, you want to make sure things go as planned after your death. We never know when we will die, which is why it is never too early to start estate planning.

Estate planning can be complicated, but with help from Brooklyn estate planning lawyer Theodore Alatsas ESQ, the process can be greatly simplified. He can ensure that your needs are met so that assets are distributed properly and loved ones are cared for after your death. Call (718) 233-2903 to schedule a consultation.