USLegal Newsletter August 2018 – Aretha Franklin, Estate Planning, and the Importance of a Will

Music legend Aretha Franklin, known as the “Queen of Soul,” passed away on August 16, 2018 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 76. Franklin left behind four sons and a reported $80 million estate, but she did not have a will. Without this legal document in place, a probate court in Michigan will now decide the distribution of Franklin’s assets. Franklin is not alone when it comes to dying without a will. Other high profile individuals who died without a will include Prince, James Brown, Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, and Anna Nicole Smith to name a few. In fact, it has been estimated that more than half of adults in the United States die without a will.

Estate planning is important to consider at any age. It determines how your wealth and others assets will be distributed after your death. A key aspect of estate planning involves the preparation of a Last Will and Testament. With a will you can determine important matters such as what will happen to your property, who will become a guardian to minor children or other dependents, and what burial arrangements you would like to be made upon your death.

Click here to learn more about other advantages and things to consider when making a will.

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Legal Definitions


Executor is the individual named in a Will who is responsible for seeing that the bequests (gifts) and other provisions of the Will are carried out. The responsibilities of the executor includes gathering up and protecting the assets of the estate, obtaining information with regard to all beneficiaries named in the Will and any other potential heirs, collecting and arranging for payment of debts of the estate, approving or disapproving creditor’s claims, making sure estate taxes are calculated, forms filed and tax payments made, and assisting the attorney for the estate.

For more legal definitions, please visit our free online legal dictionary at