Aretha left no will

On 16 August, Aretha Franklin passed away, aged 76, in hospice care after battling pancreatic cancer. She didn’t leave a will. This leaves her family to work out her total estate and then seek legal approval to perhaps divide it between themselves. It will not be an easy task.

After the mourning process, the practical concerns around a death take hold. When someone dies without a will, these are much more complicated to resolve. And when the person concerned is a celebrity, these complications have an unfortunate tendency to play out on the public stage.

When the artist formerly known Prince died, aged 57, with a $300 million estate and no will, nearly 700 people claimed to be his half siblings!  In response, a judge ordered for a DNA sample to be taken from the late singer to assess the legitimacy of these claims.

Franklin’s case is yet to draw the same kind of sensational attention from would-be relatives. She left behind four sons: Clarence Franklin, Edward Franklin, Kecalf Franklin and Ted White Jr. Her niece, Sabrina Owens, has assumed the role of executor.

Her estate is estimated to be worth around $80 million. However, Franklin was notoriously private about her finances and sometimes asked to be paid in cash. She reportedly demanded cash before playing live and then kept the money in a handbag that she kept near her onstage or in the hands of her security team. So finding all her assets may not be easy.

At Franklin’s funeral, her friend Ron Moten gave her sons some advice about dealing with the aftermath of her death.

He said: “Remember your family and friends that have been with you for years, because you are about to meet a lot of people who will now want to be your new best friend. You will also meet some people that will have the best investments in the world for you. My advice? Go slow, be careful and be smart.”

In her lifetime, Franklin won eighteen Grammy awards and sold tens of millions of records. She was one of the most talented singers of all time, releasing records from a range of genres, from gospel to pop, jazz to R&B; Franklin did it all.

Highlights from her sparkling career include performing at Barack Obama’s 2009 presidential inauguration and filling in for an ill Luciano Pavarotti at the 1998 Grammys with less than twenty minutes’ notice. She delivered a riveting rendition of ‘Nessun Dorma’ on his behalf.

To make sure you don’t leave your loved ones in a difficult situation when you die, make a will at the soonest opportunity if you haven’t already. If you don’t make a will, the law will decide who gets what when you die.

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