Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Monday, September 3, 2018

Aretha’s Lack of a Will Could Make Things Rocky for Heirs

ArethaEstate law experts expressed surprise but not shock that a wealthy person like Aretha Franklin would put off making a will until it was too late. Laura Zwicker, an attorney who specializes in estate planning but is not affiliated with the Franklin estate, says she sees it happen far too often. "People don't like to face their own mortality."

The documents listed make no mention of the value of Aretha Franklin's estate, though it seems that a surprising aspect of the estate is the ownership of her songs. Though her records were played millions of times, she earned little in radio royalties from smashes like 1967′s “Respect” because such payments go overwhelmingly to the song’s author, not the performer. She only owned the rights to one of her major hits, that of "Think"

Kenneth Abdo, an attorney who specializes in probate law and has worked on the estate of Prince, who also died without a will, says the IRS will conduct an audit of her holdings, and the entire process could take years. Then the IRS will eventually take 40% of the estate's value over $11.2 million. Her entertainment lawyer seemed distraught that the process will be taken place entirely in the public eye after the diva spent years being such a private person.

See Andrew Dalton, Aretha’s Lack of a Will Could Make Things Rocky for Heirs, AP News, September 2, 2o18.

Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.


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