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The “Queen of Soul” and Her $100 Million Estate

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By Juli Findling, Paralegal

When the “Queen of Soul”, Aretha Franklin, belted out the 1968 lyrics “You Better Think”, it was clear she wasn’t practicing what she preached when it came to managing her estate.  On August 16, 2018, in Detroit, Michigan, Aretha Franklin died intestate (without a will), leaving the question of what to do with her estate that is valued at nearly $100 million.

When a person dies without a will, under the laws of intestacy, in many states, including Georgia, the estate is to be divided equally among the heirs at law. Sounds simple, right?  However, without a will to guide the heirs as to the deceased person’s wishes, the control of the estate lands squarely in the lap of the Probate Court where the person died.  And that court can dole out money as it sees fit.  The process of dividing can take years, while the court spends time determining all of the heirs at law, appointing an administrator, and valuing the estate.  The process may involve guesswork, disagreements between family members, unpleasant arguments, and may even end up in a lengthy legal battle.

Don Wilson, Franklin’s longtime attorney, told the Free Press, “I was after her for a number of years to do a trust. It would have expedited things and kept them out of probate, and kept things private.”

Why Aretha ignored her attorney’s advice remains unclear.  Like many, she may have simply never gotten around to it, was worried about her private life becoming public, or wanted to avoid being blamed for causing family drama, preferring that her family just “work it out.”

While the sheer size of Ms. Franklin’s estate and the fact that her work will continue to generate revenue complicates matters further, even small estates can be equally problematic.

Drafting a Will can help you steer clear of these pitfalls by allowing you to:

  • Select who is in charge of making important decisions as to the distribution of your estate;
  • Clearly spell out how to divide your assets and avoid delays caused by the court;
  • Allow your family to celebrate your life and mourn your passing without struggling with what to do with everything you leave behind;
  • Reduce your estate’s and heirs’ tax exposure;
  • Make important decisions regarding who might care for minor children or manage money they might inherit;
  • Designate preferred charities to receive assets from your estate.

It is important to have an attorney who is familiar with the rules to assist you with carefully drafting your estate plan, and we would be happy to work with you and your family to achieve your goals and avoid the pitfalls of intestacy.

For more information regarding this or any other estate planning concern, please visit the Hoffman & Associates website at www.hoffmanestatelaw.com, call us at 404-255-7400 or send us an email to info@hoffmanestatelaw.com.


  • Juli Findling

    Juli joined Hoffman & Associates in June 2018 with eight years of Paralegal experience in the area of civil litigation with Robertson, Bodoh & Nasrallah, LLP. Prior to that, she dedicated five years to working as an Associate Care Specialist with Innovative Outsourcing, Inc. after working as a Systems Analyst in the corporate arena, including General Motors, Inc.’s headquarters in Warren, MI, and American Software, Inc. in Atlanta, GA.

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