Aretha Franklin – No Will

The world lost one of its greatest singing talents last month when the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, died at the age of 76, following a battle with pancreatic cancer. As reported in the newspapers, Ms Franklin did not leave a will, meaning that her four sons—Clarence, Edward, Teddy White Jr. and Kecalf—will share equally in her estimated $80 million estate. This is in accordance with Michigan state law where Ms Franklin died. According to the New York Times, high-profile probate proceedings can “drag on for years and lead to infighting among families, lawyers and others”. Such cases, it says, can become especially complicated when there are music rights involved.

Prince’s will

The paper refers to the case of Prince who died two years ago and didn’t have a will either. His case has led to numerous family disputes and even the revocation of a multi-million dollar deal.

A lawyer quoted in the newspaper told the reporter a “surprising number of celebrities and wealthy people” die without leaving a will behind. Amanda DiChello said it was always the worst result and costs “oodles and oodles of money” to address. She added that if Ms Franklin had created a revocable trust for her estate, her finances would have been kept private, avoiding the probate process altogether. Aretha Franklin had been ill for several years before her death. She started her singing career touring with her father’s gospel show as a teenager.

Funeral in Detroit

Her funeral took place on 31 August and she was buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit following a ceremony at the Greater Grace Temple. She was buried along with the remains of her father, the Reverend CL Franklin, her brother Cecil, and sisters Carolyn and Erma. The five hour service saw many tributes from family members, music legends and dignitaries, including three former US presidents. Bill Clinton said: “We started out, not as a president, a first lady, a senator, a secretary of state. We started out as, like, Aretha groupies. When we were getting out of college is when she finally got her big breakthrough.

Voice of a generation

“It’s one thing I want to say to the people in the audience: she had the voice of a generation, maybe the voice of a century but she also worked for years, I mean years, when nobody was paying particular attention.”

Danny Curran, Finders International’s founder and its managing director, said: “Our work to find the rightful heirs to an estate obviously deals with the aftermath of what happens when people die intestate, but that’s mostly in cases where people don’t have estates of such enormity, or intellectual property such as song rights. It does seem astonishing that Ms Franklin didn’t have a will, and it will be interesting to see how the case pans out, especially in terms of her musical legacy.”