Michigan law, very much like the rest of the USA, means that, as Aretha was unmarried, her fortune will be inherited equally by her four sons – which may not have been what she wanted. The sons have each filed a document to court listing themselves as interested parties and, as of yet, no conflict has arisen.
Aretha’s lawyer said that he had suggested many times that she wrote a will or a trust, and whilst she had never said ‘it was not something she wanted to do’, she just never seemed to get around to it.
No will means finances will become public
Unfortunately, Aretha notoriously distrusted banks and was a fan of cash-in-hand payments. This has led to difficulties in valuing her estate, over £2million of which is purported to be in property, and, as there is no will, details of her finances will now become public. It’s highly likely that there will be disputes over the value of her estate. Her beneficiaries will want a lower valuation that will reduce the amount of tax paid on it, whilst the IRS (tax organisation) will want it to be valued as high as possible so that it can collect the maximum inheritance tax. All of this means that there will undoubtedly be arguments to come over Aretha’s estate – and all in public, which according to her lawyer, she would not have wanted as she was a very private person.
Other wealthy celebrities left no will
Whilst Aretha’s estate seems clear-cut at the moment, with no sibling argument and no other potential beneficiaries coming forward, it might not stay that way. Unbelievably, several other very wealthy celebrities have died without making a will, leaving very complicated estates to be sorted. When Prince died in 2016, his fortunes were originally to be split between his six siblings, according to the law, but then five half-siblings came forward looking for their share. Jimmy Hendrix died in 1970 without leaving a will. His father inherited Jimmy’s estate and when he died, he left Jimmy’s £51million to his adopted daughter, leaving his biological son having to file a lawsuit for a share of the estate. Barry White left girlfriends, children and ex-wives fighting over his fortune when he died in 2003 without leaving a will. There are, of course, more.
Not many people are as wealthy as these famous celebrities, of course, but that doesn’t mean to say we shouldn’t all make a will. If you die intestate – without leaving a will, your estate will be distributed according to strict rules, and that may mean that your assets will not go where you would like them to. It also leaves your estate open for dispute, which you are certain not to have anticipated – or wanted.
For professional, expert advice on making your will, contact our specialists now and we will make an appointment to discuss and advise on your individual wishes.