When someone leaves behind a well-planned estate, he or she may never know the gratitude loved ones may feel for the generous gesture that spared them the frustration of a prolonged and contentious probate litigation. This may be especially true if the estate is substantial or the heirs do not get along. Unfortunately for the survivors of soul superstar Aretha Franklin, the singer left no plan for her Michigan estate, which now seems to have left her family in turmoil.
At first, it was determined that Franklin had left no will, which, by Michigan law, meant that her sons would divide the estate equally. The four men agreed that their cousin would act as executor of the estate, and she accepted in order to avoid conflict among the brothers. However, when someone found three different wills in Franklin’s home, each with conflicting terms, the brothers began to battle.
Franklin died 18 months ago, and the brothers reportedly are still fighting over the estate, having split into camps based on the conflicting wills. In fact, the cousin claims to be so distraught over the rupture in the family that she has resigned as executor. This means the Michigan court will have to appoint someone to take her place.
It is likely that Franklin never expected her family to fight over her wealth. Despite her declining health, she may have thought she had time to complete her estate planning. These are common reasons why many put off writing their wills or investigating other tools to protect their families. Nevertheless, with the assistance of a skilled attorney, probate litigation may be a viable way to protect what an heir believes is his or her fair share of a loved one’s estate.