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“You Better Think (Think)” Think about what not having a will or trust can mean.

September 10, 2018

Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul, passed away on August 16th, leaving behind four adult sons and a considerable estate—Franklin’s estimated worth was approximately $80 million. But with such a large estate and the means to plan for the inevitable, Aretha Franklin nonetheless did not leave a will.

This means that her estate will be distributed according to the intestate succession laws of Michigan, the state in which Ms. Franklin passed away. Like most states, Michigan’s intestacy laws direct that Franklin’s entire estate be distributed to her sons in equal shares. As easy as that may sound, the publicity surrounding Aretha Franklin in life and in death leaves a greater potential for her estate to be tied up in legal battles for years to come. As with any estate, one can only hope that no one comes out of the woodwork to make a claim against it.

While the average American will not have a multi-million dollar estate, nor such likelihood of a tempestuous legal battle over their belongings, having an estate plan is vital to a smooth transition for your family after death. An estate plan can ensure that the people who matter most to you are taken care of when you die and that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. State intestate succession laws cannot always provide such peace of mind.

Estate plans are carefully tailored to your particular needs, taking into account your unique circumstances as well as various tax considerations. The goal is to craft an estate plan that is most beneficial to you and your beneficiaries. Most estate plans include a will at a minimum, which determines how your probate assets are distributed upon your death. Many estate plans also include trusts, life insurance policies, joint accounts, joint property, payable on death accounts, etc., which pass outside of the will to designated beneficiaries. A well-crafted estate plan will ensure that none of your assets are stuck in limbo or subject to your state’s intestacy laws.

Visiting your estate planning attorney, like going to the dentist, is something that many people put off. No one likes to think about death, and it never feels like an urgent matter to plan your estate. However, if you want to make things easier for your family upon your passing, creating an estate plan while you’re still alive is a great way to do just that.

If you or someone you know has any questions regarding estate planning, please call Diane Tiveron at 716-636-7600.