Wednesday, August 21, 2019
From the New York Times, a window into what can happen when the high profile matriarch of a family either had "no" estate plan, or perhaps left behind three handwritten written documents that "could" be treated as wills.
Family squabbles over celebrity estates are not rare, as infighting over the estates of Prince, James Brown and, more recently, Tom Petty, have made clear. But Franklin’s case is especially complex because determining how she wanted her assets distributed involves deciphering whether any of the three hand-scrawled documents found in her home three months ago — one of them under the couch cushions — should be embraced as her will.
When [Aretha] Franklin died, at age 76, her family believed she had no will. Under Michigan law, that meant her estate would be divided equally among her sons. With that understanding, the sons approved the appointment of a cousin, Sabrina Owens, as the estate’s personal representative, or executor.
But if any will is accepted by the probate judge overseeing the estate, that formula for the distribution of assets would be upended, with far-reaching consequences for Franklin’s sons, whose earnings could change — some drastically, depending on which will is declared legitimate. Ms. Owens’s status as executor would also be in jeopardy.
“The wills changed everything,” Charlene Glover-Hogan, a lawyer for Kecalf Franklin, the singer’s youngest son, said at a contentious court hearing on Aug. 6.
My thanks to my colleague, Professor Laurel Terry, for this link!