Sadly, we lost the “Queen of Soul” this year. Aretha Franklin gave so much to us, from great songs such as Rock Steady and Daydreaming, to her contributions to the musical community with her version of Respect. Unfortunately, we can also learn from her when it comes to estate planning.

Aretha Franklin died intestate. This means she passed away without any instructions or planning for her assets, real property, and her family. Her loved ones were left without instructions for what she wanted her legacy to accomplish. They also lost their privacy because without a trust agreement, her estate will be subject to the public probate process.

There are specific lessons we can learn from Aretha Franklin when it comes to her lack of estate planning.  We are going to discuss them with you here. What may be surprising to you, however, is that Franklin‘s lack of planning is a very common theme in America. Recent studies share that less than half of all Americans actually have completed estate planning.  Therefore, many estates are subject to the complications Franklin’s family now face. Let us share three estate planning tips we can learn from right now.

  1. Protect your privacy. Without trust-based estate planning in place, your estate may have to go through probate. Probate is the process by which the court determines who your legal heirs are. Without an estate plan, through which you choose your heirs, there is a statutory process to determine who your legal heirs are. The probate court will also determine what creditors and debts you must pay before your estate can be distributed to your heirs. Further, probate is a public process that anyone can access.


  1. Protect your disabled loved ones.  If you have a disabled child, as Franklin did, estate planning is critical. Through your estate plan you can ensure that your disabled child will not lose access to his or her public benefits. These benefits, such as SSI or Medicaid, may be essential to your disabled child’s future. By placing special needs planning within your estate plan you can ensure your child will not lose access to these benefits. In addition, you can place contingencies in your estate plan to ensure that if your healthy child suddenly became disabled, he or she would still be protected.


  1. Protect your net worth. Most of us do not want to think about a time when we would become incapacitated or die. Unfortunately, it can happen at any time. Comprehensive estate planning allows us to ensure that we can protect our net worth under any scenario. Right now, due to lack of planning, Franklin’s estate stands to pay roughly eighty million in federal estate taxes that could have been avoided through estate planning strategies.

Estate planning for your death, however, is just a part of this equation. Comprehensive estate planning takes into consideration not just who you want to inherit from you but also plans for making sure you are protected from sudden incapacity and the potential need for long-term care. When you create the right plan for you, your estate plan can ensure that there is someone available to make decisions should you be unable to yourself and that you will not lose your net worth paying for a long-term care facility such as a nursing home. Don’t hesitate to contact our firm with any questions you may have.