Famed singer's written wills may lead to probate litigation

If you've been following the news then you've probably heard about the issues surrounding famed singer Aretha Franklin's estate. At first, reports indicated that Franklin died without a will, which meant that all of her assets and debts were going to be subjected to intestate succession and an extensive probate process. This meant that her assets were likely to be divided evenly amongst her four sons. New developments in the case, though, may change the course of her estate.

Recent legal filings indicate that Franklin actually had three handwritten wills, which were recently found at her residence. One of those wills was found under couch cushions. All three of the wills, one of which was written in 2010 and two in 2014, have been submitted to the court for a determination of their legal validity.

The wills have apparently divided Franklin's children, too. Two of her sons support the most recent will's validity, while two are challenging it. At least one reason for the divide appears to be the fact that one of Franklin's children, who was born when Franklin was just 12 years old, would inherit significantly less under the terms of that will. If no will is deemed valid, on the other hand, that same son would inherit an equal share of the estate. The newest 2014 will also appears to divide all real property amongst Franklin's three other sons, and it may even allocate all of her royalties to those same sons. The son who appears to receive significantly less under that will currently lives in a group home. It is worth noting, though, that the will appears to require her other sons to check on the group home-bound child weekly and make sure he is taken care of.

The truth of the matter, though, is that Franklin's handwritten wills are difficult to decipher, which is one reason why they may be deemed invalid. Hopefully the parties can mediate the issues and come to a resolution that allows them to avoid drawn out litigation. However, in the event that the matter continues unresolved, each needs to be prepared with strong legal arguments to support their position.

This case highlights the importance of competent estate planning. To avoid these and a whole host of other complications, Tennessee residents should consider discussing these issues with an estate planning attorney they trust.




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