Many Connecticut fans of legendary soul performer Aretha Franklin may be surprised to learn that she died without a will, despite her valuable music catalog and substantial estate. The 76-year-old singer passed away in August after a lengthy struggle with pancreatic cancer. Despite comments from her attorney that he had encouraged her to set up a trust and other key estate planning documents, she refrained from doing so throughout her life. She was unmarried and has four adult children, one with special needs, and the process of passing on her estate could be much more complex as a result.
When a substantial estate is at stake, the risks of family feuds and other disputes can be obvious, especially when a large estate tax burden may apply. However, even people with modest estates can provide a significant benefit to their loved ones by making a will and drawing up an estate plan. Without creating trusts or other transfer documents, Franklin’s estate will be publicly valued and passed through the probate court. As a result, her heirs may have to wait much longer for their disbursements. They may also have to pay additional costs and fees.
The matter could be of particular concern for Franklin’s son with special needs; by setting up a special needs trust, people can pass on wealth to their children with special needs without harming their eligibility for government programs. However, many people don’t know about the options available, and only 40 percent of Americans have a will or living trust in place.
Many people delay making an estate plan because they hesitate to think about death or uncomfortable family relations. However, by working with an estate planning lawyer, people may gain peace of mind for themselves as well as help protecting the assets they wish to pass on to their loved ones.