Death of Aretha Franklin reminds of the need for estate planning

The death of a prominent citizen of Detroit emphasizes the need of establishing an estate plan. Aretha Franklin recently passed away at the age of 76 and she had apparently done no estate planning. It is said that she did not have a will or trust in place, which may complicate the settling of her estate. She is survived by four sons who have all listed themselves as interested parties. A niece has also requested to be appointed as the personal representative of the estate.

Under Michigan law when there is no last will and testament, a single person's estate is divided equally among any children of the decedent. Reportedly, Ms. Franklin's lawyer had advised her of the need to have a will or a trust. She had not established either at the time of her death.

Having an estate plan in place, and in particular a trust, enables the particulars of an estate to remain private. Failing that, the estate will have to go through probate. Probate proceedings are open to the public. In this case the proceedings will go through Oakland County Court.

It is advisable for any adult to have a plan in place to facilitate the distribution of his or her assets in the event of one's death. There is no minimum amount required to establish a will or a trust. Nor is there a recommended age at which to begin estate planning. Any person over the age of 18 in Michigan considering a will or a trust may wish to seek the advice of an experienced estate planning attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can review a person's assets and liabilities and assist one in ensuring that one's final wishes will be successfully carried out.

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