"By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

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Taylor Larimore
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"By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by Taylor Larimore » Wed Aug 22, 2018 2:37 pm

Bogleheads:

Nearly every adult family member should have a will. However, according to this MarketWatch article, Only four in 10 U.S. adults have wills.

This article about Aretha Franklin's failure to have a will should encourage all of us to prepare a will before it is too late.

By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches

Best wishes.
Taylor
"Simplicity is the master key to financial success." -- Jack Bogle

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by PFInterest » Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:07 pm

maybe thats what she wanted.
also a will does not necessarily mean you will bypass probate.

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by JBTX » Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:23 pm

PFInterest wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:07 pm
maybe thats what she wanted.
also a will does not necessarily mean you will bypass probate.
A will does not bypass probate. It just allows you to decide where your assets go vs probate judge.

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by JoeRetire » Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:41 pm

Was it laziness? She just didn't care?

Every adult should have a will. I see no upside to avoiding it.
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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by bsteiner » Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:27 pm

JBTX wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:23 pm
PFInterest wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:07 pm
maybe thats what she wanted.
also a will does not necessarily mean you will bypass probate.
A will does not bypass probate. It just allows you to decide where your assets go vs probate judge.
State law decides how your estate will go if you don't have a Will, not the court. She left 4 children but no spouse. I would guess that absent a Will her estate would go to her children equally in every state.

By having a Will, she could have named executors of her choice. That's important in this case given the nature and extent of her assets.

She could have also used her $11,180,000 GST exemption, and provided for her children in trust rather than outright, especially the child with special needs.

Probating a Will is generally not difficult, expensive or burdensome. The executors file the Will with some forms, a death certificate, and a small filing fee. Of course, given the nature and extent of her assets, administering her estate, with or without a Will, is likely to be a good deal of work.

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by Artsdoctor » Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:43 pm

I can't begin to know how frequently screw-ups occur without any will but I'm fairly confident that with a large estate, things would go more smoothly with a will than without. "Heirs" seem to come out of the woodwork . . .

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by vitaflo » Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:47 pm

JoeRetire wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:41 pm
Every adult should have a will. I see no upside to avoiding it.
What if you don't know who you want your assets to go to? This has always been my issue, which is why I haven't bothered with it unfortunately.

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by Artsdoctor » Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:52 pm

vitaflo wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:47 pm
JoeRetire wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:41 pm
Every adult should have a will. I see no upside to avoiding it.
What if you don't know who you want your assets to go to? This has always been my issue, which is why I haven't bothered with it unfortunately.
You really only have two choices here. One, you decide where they go. Two, someone else will decide where they go. There is no third option.

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by vitaflo » Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:58 pm

Artsdoctor wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:52 pm
vitaflo wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:47 pm
JoeRetire wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:41 pm
Every adult should have a will. I see no upside to avoiding it.
What if you don't know who you want your assets to go to? This has always been my issue, which is why I haven't bothered with it unfortunately.
You really only have two choices here. One, you decide where they go. Two, someone else will decide where they go. There is no third option.
How do people deal with changes over time? Do they need to write up an entirely new will? I feel like I would change my mind a lot (who I would have selected 5 years ago is not at all who I would today). That would seem to cost a lot of time and money to keep having new wills made.

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by Gill » Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:59 pm

Artsdoctor wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:52 pm
vitaflo wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:47 pm
JoeRetire wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:41 pm
Every adult should have a will. I see no upside to avoiding it.
What if you don't know who you want your assets to go to? This has always been my issue, which is why I haven't bothered with it unfortunately.
You really only have two choices here. One, you decide where they go. Two, someone else will decide where they go. There is no third option.
It’s not someone else. It’s the law of your domicile that determines the disposition of your estate.
Gill
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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by abuss368 » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:01 pm

Incredible when considering the advisors the rich and famous must have at their disposal.

I believe George Michael and/or Print also died without a Will.
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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by Artsdoctor » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:04 pm

Gill wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:59 pm
Artsdoctor wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:52 pm
vitaflo wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:47 pm
JoeRetire wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:41 pm
Every adult should have a will. I see no upside to avoiding it.
What if you don't know who you want your assets to go to? This has always been my issue, which is why I haven't bothered with it unfortunately.
You really only have two choices here. One, you decide where they go. Two, someone else will decide where they go. There is no third option.
It’s not someone else. It’s the law of your domicile that determines the disposition of your estate.
Gill
LOL! Yes. The law will decide for you.

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:06 pm

Perhaps she went to a lawyer and said "I want my money divided evenly between my kids" and the lawyer said "Well, state law would do exactly that, so a will is redundant and un-necessary".

That's not lazy. That's informed decision making. I happen to be in that same boat. I know what state law says. It says exactly what I would say in a will.
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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by GeraniumLover » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:07 pm

It's especially surprising that entertainers would not use a will to specify how to handle their lifetime output and future publicity rights, to protect their legacy. Otherwise their image may end up in advertisements for products they would have hated, or their embarrassing bloopers might see the light of day.

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by HornedToad » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:11 pm

JoeRetire wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:41 pm
Every adult should have a will. I see no upside to avoiding it.
I haven't bothered with a will. All my accounts have TOD beneficiaries for both primary and secondary and my house is community property with right of survivorship.

Only if my wife and I both died then it'd be a pain for them

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by The Wizard » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:11 pm

The mods must be on vacation this week.
Go for it!
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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by The Wizard » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:12 pm

abuss368 wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:01 pm
Incredible when considering the advisors the rich and famous must have at their disposal.

I believe George Michael and/or Print also died without a Will.
Print or Prince?
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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by golfCaddy » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:14 pm

JoeRetire wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:41 pm
Was it laziness? She just didn't care?

Every adult should have a will. I see no upside to avoiding it.
Everyone doesn't need a will anymore than everyone getting married needs a prenup. The law has default rules about how assets are to be distributed. Unlike Aretha Franklin, 99.8% of estates are well below the estate tax limits.

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by JBTX » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:22 pm

bsteiner wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:27 pm
JBTX wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:23 pm
PFInterest wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:07 pm
maybe thats what she wanted.
also a will does not necessarily mean you will bypass probate.
A will does not bypass probate. It just allows you to decide where your assets go vs probate judge.
State law decides how your estate will go if you don't have a Will, not the court. She left 4 children but no spouse. I would guess that absent a Will her estate would go to her children equally in every state.

By having a Will, she could have named executors of her choice. That's important in this case given the nature and extent of her assets.

She could have also used her $11,180,000 GST exemption, and provided for her children in trust rather than outright, especially the child with special needs.

Probating a Will is generally not difficult, expensive or burdensome. The executors file the Will with some forms, a death certificate, and a small filing fee. Of course, given the nature and extent of her assets, administering her estate, with or without a Will, is likely to be a good deal of work.
Experienced estate planning professional 1, random message board poster 0.

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by Rupert » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:26 pm

Jack FFR1846 wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:06 pm
Perhaps she went to a lawyer and said "I want my money divided evenly between my kids" and the lawyer said "Well, state law would do exactly that, so a will is redundant and un-necessary".

That's not lazy. That's informed decision making. I happen to be in that same boat. I know what state law says. It says exactly what I would say in a will.
No, it's actually pretty dumb in her case. An entertainer such as Aretha Franklin will continue to make money long after she's dead -- money that will have to continue to be distributed through her estate, which means a lot of lawyers, etc., will take their piece. And there's potentially a lot of money, meaning the estate tax man will likely get a nice chunk of it that he might not have gotten had she established trusts for her heirs. And she had a special needs child. I could go on and on . . . Dumb dumb dumb.

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by Amphian » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:31 pm

vitaflo wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:58 pm
How do people deal with changes over time? Do they need to write up an entirely new will? I feel like I would change my mind a lot (who I would have selected 5 years ago is not at all who I would today). That would seem to cost a lot of time and money to keep having new wills made.
They use trusts or a new will. You can do a will without a lawyer by using will kits or online forms, if your will is simple. (My previous job provided access to a company that let you do all kinds of forms of that nature for free online.) I redo mine maybe once or twice a decade, because my financial situation changes or I change my mind.

If you don't care who gets your assets or what kind of mess you leave for the people closest to you, you don't need a will. If you don't care who makes your healthcare or legal decisions when you are incapacitated, you don't need a health care directive, etc. If any of those things do matter to you, then you need the documents.

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by lukestuckenhymer » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:33 pm

JoeRetire wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:41 pm
Was it laziness? She just didn't care?
I have friends and relatives who are so scared of facing death that they refuse to write a will, despite knowing the benefits.

A relative who has terminal cancer refuses and when confronted about it, she becomes very upset.
Last edited by lukestuckenhymer on Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by CABob » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:35 pm

GeraniumLover wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:07 pm
It's especially surprising that entertainers would not use a will to specify how to handle their lifetime output and future publicity rights, to protect their legacy. Otherwise their image may end up in advertisements for products they would have hated, or their embarrassing bloopers might see the light of day.
I wonder how well state law or a will deals with this issue. I would think that perhaps another process or document such as a trust along with a trustee would be needed.
Bob

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by pennywise » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:46 pm

JoeRetire wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:41 pm
Was it laziness? She just didn't care?

Every adult should have a will. I see no upside to avoiding it.
It seems as if not having a will must have been a deliberate choice, at least. She had been widely known to be in poor health for quite awhile so a terminal diagnosis surely was conveyed to her at some point. And she was a wealthy woman who had to know rationally that her fortune was going somewhere once she wasn't around.

So while the public will likely never know details of her thought process, one can speculate that perhaps Aretha Franklin was simply as human as the many other folks who have refused to create a will or trust regardless of the certain knowledge that their time to do so was running out.

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by JoeRetire » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:51 pm

vitaflo wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:47 pm
JoeRetire wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:41 pm
Every adult should have a will. I see no upside to avoiding it.
What if you don't know who you want your assets to go to? This has always been my issue, which is why I haven't bothered with it unfortunately.
Sit down and figure it out. It's important if you care where your assets will go.

Or just give it all to me. Done!
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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by Artsdoctor » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:53 pm

I don't know what other people's experiences have been but I've settled estates; it takes either a little work or a lot of work, but it's always work. I've found that the more preparation that is done, the smoother it goes. There will always be exceptions and I'm sure many posters will have different experiences.

Even if you were aware of your domicile's law and wanted the law to decide how your assets were distributed, wouldn't you just want to make it easier for the executor? It seems very unlikely that you're going to hear a beneficiary/executor say, "I'm just so thankful that he died without a will."

All of that said, my FIL's will is pretty vicious so I might have to take those words back; he's actually using his will as a weapon against my BIL. But overall, I think most would probably benefit from a little planning.

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by JoeRetire » Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:56 pm

vitaflo wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 5:58 pm
How do people deal with changes over time? Do they need to write up an entirely new will? I feel like I would change my mind a lot (who I would have selected 5 years ago is not at all who I would today). That would seem to cost a lot of time and money to keep having new wills made.
If you change your mind then you definitely want to write a new will. Your lawyer will charge far less for producing a new will that only changes beneficiaries, and it won't take any more time than a quick phone call.

The alternative is to change your mind and not have a will or not change an existing will. Then whatever you have in mind doesn't matter at all. That wouldn't seem to be a desirable outcome.
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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by JoeRetire » Wed Aug 22, 2018 7:02 pm

lukestuckenhymer wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:33 pm
JoeRetire wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:41 pm
Was it laziness? She just didn't care?
I have friends and relatives who are so scared of facing death that they refuse to write a will, despite knowing the benefits.

A relative who has terminal cancer refuses and when confronted about it, she becomes very upset.
Good point. I also know some folks who equate writing a will with thinking about death. Some of them appear to be held back by superstitions. I have a hard time relating to any of that.

When I was diagnosed with cancer last November, I pulled out my will to see if it needed changing. But it was basic enough that no changes were needed.
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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by CFM300 » Wed Aug 22, 2018 7:04 pm

Artsdoctor wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:04 pm
LOL! Yes. The law will decide for you.
And if you're content with what the law mandates, why do you need a will?

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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by JoeRetire » Wed Aug 22, 2018 7:12 pm

pennywise wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:46 pm
JoeRetire wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:41 pm
Was it laziness? She just didn't care?

Every adult should have a will. I see no upside to avoiding it.
It seems as if not having a will must have been a deliberate choice, at least. She had been widely known to be in poor health for quite awhile so a terminal diagnosis surely was conveyed to her at some point. And she was a wealthy woman who had to know rationally that her fortune was going somewhere once she wasn't around.
Maybe.

She was a pretty quirky individual financially.

She demanded to be paid in cash. And she used the cash to pay staff - under the table. She got in trouble with the IRS repeatedly. And she got sued several times for not paying bills.
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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by JoeRetire » Wed Aug 22, 2018 7:18 pm

Artsdoctor wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:53 pm
I don't know what other people's experiences have been but I've settled estates; it takes either a little work or a lot of work, but it's always work. I've found that the more preparation that is done, the smoother it goes. There will always be exceptions and I'm sure many posters will have different experiences.

Even if you were aware of your domicile's law and wanted the law to decide how your assets were distributed, wouldn't you just want to make it easier for the executor?
Agreed. It's always easier with the decedent's plans are explicit. I learned that the hard way when I helped my dad with my late aunt's estate.

And as the saying goes "you don't know what you don't know". Assuming you understand the law well enough for things to come out the way you wish may or may not be a mistake. What if one or more of your anticipated beneficiaries dies? What do you want to happen?

A good estate lawyer will ask you the right questions, probe for specific answers and understanding, and commit it to writing for you. Money well spent, IMHO.
It seems very unlikely that you're going to hear a beneficiary/executor say, "I'm just so thankful that he died without a will."
LOL!
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Re: "By not having a will, Aretha Franklin likely left her heirs with lots of headaches"

Post by LadyGeek » Wed Aug 22, 2018 7:19 pm

The Wizard wrote:
Wed Aug 22, 2018 6:11 pm
The mods must be on vacation this week.
Go for it!
The mods were busy reading other posts. :wink:

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