Aretha Franklin died on the 16th of August 2018 at the age of 76 after an ongoing battle with pancreatic cancer. Recent news reports have now revealed how a handwritten Will has been discovered under a sofa cushion in the Queen of Soul’s home in Detroit. To ensure the Will’s validity, it is being examined by a handwriting expert.
It was originally believed that Aretha Franklin died without a Will, leaving her multimillion pound estate to the rules of intestacy. However, the lawyers for her estate revealed that three Wills have subsequently been found.
Initially, two handwritten Wills written in 2010 were found locked in a cabinet. These Wills revealed that the singer had named her niece Sabrina Owens and son Theodore White II as Executors of her estate. The third Will discovered under a sofa cushion was supposedly written in 2014 and names her son Kecalf Franklin as Executor.
The 2014 Will is reportedly difficult to decipher, so it needs to be determined whether it qualifies as valid Will. The Will has words crossed out, notes in the margins and the handwriting is hard to read in places.
Aretha Franklin’s estate is reportedly worth approximately $80 million (£62 million) and it is still unclear as to who will inherit the estate. If a Will is found to be valid then the estate should be distributed as per the wishes set out in the Will. On the other hand, if it’s ruled that the singer died intestate, then under the intestacy rules set out by Michigan state law, Aretha Franklin’s four surviving children would inherit an equal split of her estate.
The importance of leaving a valid Will
The uncertainty around how Aretha Franklin’s estate will be distributed highlights the importance of not only creating a Will but also ensuring that it is legal and stored in a safe place. Regardless of age, health and wealth, it’s crucial that people state their wishes in a Will. This avoids their estate being distributed in the predetermined way dictated by intestacy laws.
To make a Will, you must be 18 years old or older in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or 12 years or older in Scotland. You must make it voluntarily, be of sound mind and make it in writing. Additionally, in England and Wales, you are required to sign it in the presence of two witnesses who are both over 18, and your two witnesses must sign the Will in your presence. However, in Scotland, you are one required to sign it in the presence of one witness that is over the age of 16. You can’t name the witnesses or their married partners as beneficiaries in the Will.
You should also consider where you store the Will. The best approach to ensure your Will is found when the time comes is to inform your Executor(s) of where the Will is stored. Storing Wills at home can be dangerous as they are at risk of being damaged or destroyed in an accident such as a fire or flood. You could also store your Will with a professional company that offers Will storage, your solicitor, a bank or the London Probate Service.
Kings Court Trust is one of the UK’s leading estate administration providers and we take care of the complicated practicalities after death, so you can focus on life’s important moments. If you have any questions about estate administration, call our experienced Client Services Team on 0300 303 9000 or click here to get in touch.