Aretha Franklin – No Will or Trust – What Happens Now?

Aretha Franklin – No Will or Trust – What Happens Now?

Written by Eugene Reinboth 

The ever popular Aretha Franklin died recently and has been making media headlines including in The Sydney Morning Herald. It has been reported that she died without making a Will or preparing a Trust in relation to her large estate, reportedly in excess of $100 million. As commonly occurs, family tend to commence Court proceedings. Her four sons have apparently commenced such proceedings. There is a niece involved as well. She is seeking appointment as Ms Franklin’s personal representative of the estate. Ms Franklin’s lawyer has publically expressed the view that he had been trying to get Ms Franklin to create a Trust, but was unsuccessful. This would have kept matters private. Her personal affairs have now however become public. Her lawyers also reportedly mentioned another well-known musician, Ike Turner, whose estate is still being litigated 11 years after his death. Such litigation depletes the estate. Furthermore, it delays the distribution of the estate.

It is often stated that there are two certainties in life – death and taxes. Most will attend to preparation of their income tax returns. It is also important to prepare a Will and associated documents. This, so that financial and property matters can be sorted out in an orderly fashion prior to death.

In a number of countries, including Australia, there are laws which provide for situations where a person dies without making a Will or where a portion of the estate is not dealt with in a Will. Where a person dies in such circumstances, they are described as having died ‘wholly’ or ‘partially’ intestate. In South Australia, where there is a Spouse or domestic partner and no children then that person is entitled to the whole of the estate. Where there are children and there is no surviving Spouse, the children are entitled to the whole of the estate. Where there are both a surviving Spouse and children, then there are rules which apply for distribution of the estate between the Spouse and the children. There are also rules where the deceased is survived by both a Spouse and a domestic partner. There are provisions for grandchildren and relatives where those circumstances need to be taken into account.

From the above it will be seen, that it is preferable for persons to prepare a Will so that their estate is dealt with in accordance with their wishes rather than by the default rules. Furthermore, it is useful to remember that marriage revokes an existing Will. So, even if a Will had been prepared, it is no longer valid and a new Will needs to be prepared. A divorce also affects a Will, especially where property in the Will was given to the former Spouse or partner.

To have peace of mind, please contact the helpful team at Belperio Clark Lawyers on (08) 8212 1322.

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