I wrote the book on Minnesota probate.

The problem with Aretha Franklin’s handwritten wills

On Behalf of | Apr 9, 2021 | Estate Planning |

When people do not create a plan for their assets, surviving family members must address estate settlement issues. Interested parties go through a legal process known as probate to resolve problems, such as handling the will, paying the deceased’s debts and appraising estate and property. 

Aretha Franklin did not have a valid will at the time of her death. When this happens, the probate court must decide how to distribute the assets. Without a formal declaration of last wishes, the proceedings may be time-consuming and complicated. 

The problem with handwritten wills

When Aretha Franklin died, it appeared that she did not have a will. However, people subsequently found three handwritten papers in her home and a fourth typed testament. She did not sign the most recent document. The law requires a valid will to have the signatures of the asset owner and two witnesses. Without these formalities, a court must determine if handwritten directives are legally binding documents. 

In addition to ruling whether these notes have legal implications, the court must also decide which version takes precedence. When someone wants to change a will’s details, it is vital to revoke the old version and create a new one. Doing this helps eliminate confusion regarding the distribution of estate funds. 

Estate planning with privacy concerns

Ms. Franklin was highly private regarding her finances. Privacy concerns may be why she did not have a formal will drafted that adhered to legal requirements. Creating a revocable trust during estate planning can keep information private and avoid future probate issues. Asset planning is the ideal way to avoid trouble for surviving relatives.