Estate Planning mistakes: Lessons Learned from Aretha Franklin from Austin Estate Planning Lawyer Liz Nielsen

Aretha Franklin

When Aretha Franklin died in 2018, it would have been logical to assume that she had a well-thought-out estate plan. Unfortunately for her heirs, that was not the case.

As Forbes Magazine reported, her heirs found three different wills, all handwritten. All three have been submitted to the probate court, and the court will decide if any of them are valid and ultimately how her assets are distributed. The court’s decision may or may not reflect Ms. Franklin’s wishes.

What are the lessons to learn?

  • First of all, do develop a will. According to AARP, more than half of Americans don’t have an estate plan in place.
  • Hire a trusted estate planning attorney to complete your estate plan. A handwritten will suggests that the deceased didn’t consult an attorney. Since probate laws vary from state to state, it’s important to consult an estate planning attorney in your state to ensure that your will is valid. Text downloaded from the internet and handwritten often does not comply with the applicable laws and will only result in stress and drama for your heirs.
  • Make sure your heirs know where your will is located. Heirs often have a difficult time locating a will – or even knowing if one exists. This can lead to delays, increased family strife and added expense in probate.
  • Shred outdated wills to avoid potential confusion.
  • Revisit your estate planning, particularly if your assets increase or decrease significantly, if you want to change your beneficiaries, if you have started or closed a business, or if one of your beneficiaries has passed away.

Nielsen Law PLLC provides family focused estate planning to individuals and families in Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, and the Central Texas area.  For more information and to learn about our firm, please contact us.