Estate planning lessons to be learned from Aretha Franklin

It's not unusual for hardworking individuals in Texas to do everything possible to protect the future of their assets. This is often done legally with either a will or trust. However, many estate owners neglect to do this. For example, the late R&B singer Aretha Franklin never made such arrangements with her own estate, estimated to be valued at approximately $80 million. Because of a lack of will or trust, the Queen of Soul's four sons have come forward as interested parties. Franklin's niece has reportedly been selected to act as the estate's personal representative.

When properly prepared, wills and trusts can expedite estate matters following a death. The singer's entertainment lawyer said that he had tried several times over the years to convince Franklin to complete a trust. She did, however, have an estate lawyer. Even so, it's unclear as to why she never followed through with the legal advice she was given. The "Freeway of Love" singer was said to have certain financial quirks, such as demanding to be paid in cash prior to performances.

If Aretha Franklin's lack of estate planning results in years of litigation or contentious battles between family members, it won't be the first time celebrity estates have experienced legal woes. Robin Williams' wife and three children are still wrangling over the late actor's estate. And because the late singer Prince had no will, his heirs reportedly haven't received a dime from his estate, and it's not clear what will happen with his expansive studio complex.

A lawyer can provide many different types of estate planning assistance that may eliminate or minimize questions about assets following death. One solution is to set up a living trust to control asset distribution while alive and transfer such responsibilities to designated beneficiaries after death. Trusts also sometimes avoid the need for probate. Even just having a valid, updated will may significantly reduce possible estate-related issues.

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