fbpx

Austin: (512) 910-8977 | San Antonio: (210) 570-2458

Austin: (512) 910-8977 | San Antonio: (210) 570-2458

show-some-respect-for-estate-planning

Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, captivated audiences with her powerful voice and left an indelible mark on the music industry. However, even the legendary Aretha Franklin wasn’t immune to the perils of poor estate planning. When she passed in 2018, she left behind a confusing mess of conflicting handwritten wills. Now—five years later—her estate has finally been settled.

Let’s explore the five key lessons we can learn from Franklin’s estate planning mistakes.

Lesson 1: Don’t neglect estate planning

Aretha Franklin’s case highlights the simple importance of having a professionally drafted estate plan in place. Franklin likely had no idea that her handwritten wills would ultimately force her loved ones into a long and emotionally draining probate battle. It is crucial to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who can ensure your legal documents are drafted soundly, and that your final wishes are crystal clear and can be carried out seamlessly.

Lesson 2: Seek professional guidance

Handwritten wills, like the ones found in Aretha Franklin’s case, can complicate matters and lead to ambiguity and legal challenges. While it’s tempting to draft your own will—or rely on free online templates—it’s essential to consult an estate planning attorney, if for nothing else than to confirm your handwritten or online will checks all the right boxes. Only a qualified estate planning attorney has the knowledge and experience to ensure your will is legally sound, clearly drafted, and can withstand potential challenges.

Lesson 3: Update your estate plan regularly

Life is dynamic, and circumstances change all the time. Aretha Franklin’s situation serves as a reminder to review and update your estate plan regularly. Major life events—such as marriage, divorce, births, or significant financial changes—should prompt a reevaluation of your plan. While Franklin did attempt to update her will by writing a new one, the simple existence of the first will made settling her estate more complicated than it had to be. Working with an attorney to keep your plan current can ensure new assets are accounted for, your loved ones remain protected, and potential complications are proactively planned for.

Lesson 4: Minimize tax liabilities

As you can imagine, Aretha Franklin’s estate faced significant tax liabilities. When crafting your estate plan, it’s crucial to work with an estate planning attorney who can help structure your assets to minimize taxes, both for the estate and its beneficiaries. Proper planning can ensure that more of your assets go to your loved ones than to the IRS.

Lesson 5: Communication is key

One of the major challenges in Aretha Franklin’s case was the lack of clear communication regarding her intentions. Openly discussing your estate plan with family and loved ones can help avoid misunderstandings and conflict after you pass. Share your wishes, explain the reasoning behind certain decisions and address any concerns they may have. This can foster understanding and unity among your heirs, reducing the likelihood of disputes in the future.

Aretha Franklin’s estate planning saga serves as a cautionary tale for everyone. By examining the mistakes made in her case, we can learn valuable lessons about the importance of proper estate planning. Neglecting estate planning, relying on handwritten wills, and failing to update your plan regularly can lead to lengthy legal battles, and strained relationships amongst your loved ones.

To ensure your wishes are respected—and that your estate is managed efficiently—take the time to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. They can guide you through the process, minimize tax liabilities, and ensure your loved ones are protected. Remember, it’s never too early to start planning for the future and to show some R-E-S-P-E-C-T for estate planning.

The Hailey-Petty Law Firm is happy to offer a free 45-minute consultation with an attorney at either our Austin or San Antonio location. Complete the brief form below to request your free consultation or call us today!