R-E-S-P-E-C-T the Estate
Recently, legendary singer Aretha Franklin passed away; unfortunately, she did not have a Last Will & Testament. Passing away without a Will opens up the private performer’s estate to public awareness and unnecessary costs.
Franklin, who died in Michigan at age 76, left behind four sons, but no guidance on how to distribute her estimated $80 million estate. The eldest son, Clarence, age 63, has unspecified special needs and requires financial and other forms of support for his entire life.
When someone dies without a will – called dying “intestate” — the estate is divided according to state law. Even if Ms. Franklin had wanted her estate to go solely to her children, by not having a will or trust, her estate will have to go through a long public probate process, which will likely cost her estate considerable money. If Franklin had created an estate plan that included a will and a trust, she could have avoided probate and kept the details of her financial circumstances private. But perhaps even more importantly, that estate plan could have made special provisions to ensure that Clarence would receive proper care for the rest of his life. Franklin could have established a special needs trust to preserve any public benefits Clarence may be receiving, or perhaps allocated him a larger share of her estate. Additionally, the estate will be subject to unnecessary estate taxation, leaving more of her children’s inheritance to her Uncle Sam. Estate Planning is important even if you do not have mega-star money; especially if you have children with special needs that require more planning. In sum, estate planning allows you to give what you have, to who you want, when you want. When you pass and your loved ones know that you planned well, it will be music to their ears.