Aretha Franklin passed away almost one year ago. At the time, it was believed that she had not left a will. Three documents appearing to be wills were recently found in her Michigan home. The discovery is likely to add to the complexity of settling the late singer's estate and also illustrates the benefit to comprehensive estate planning.
The first question that will have to be answered is whether or not any or all of the documents represent a legal will under Michigan law. Two of the documents, one dated in 2010 and the other in 2014, appear to be valid. The third is a one-page document from 2010 that does not contain any information regarding who is to receive her assets or to administer the estate.
A hearing has been scheduled to determine if the documents constitute a holographic will. A holographic will is one which contains the bulk of the information written in the deceased's own hand. The singer had four sons, and three of them have their own attorneys representing them. The fourth is represented by a guardian. Two of the sons are reportedly prepared to contest the legitimacy of the documents.
It can be very difficult to contemplate one's own mortality, which the process of estate planning requires. Failure to do so can cause divisions in one's family that result in one's final wishes being decided by a judge. A judge may not make the decisions as the deceased would have. As difficult as it may be, having a comprehensive estate plan in place in Michigan is a wonderful gift to one's family at a very difficult time.