Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn

Q: Why are so many celebrities dying without wills?

The simple answer would be – – because they are human.

There are many reasons why people die without a will. One reason is that the whole idea of the estate planning process is intimidating to the average person who may be nervous about dealing with an estate planning attorney. Another common reason people don’t have a will is that they are creeped out at the idea of facing their own death.

Still, others may put it off because they are conflicted over who to leave their property to and/or who to designate as the legal guardians of their minor children. And others wrongly assume that they are not rich enough to need a will or that their children and/or property will just magically end up in the hands of the people they want even if they don’t have a will.

One way to get respect is to protect your loved ones with a comprehensive estate plan.

The late, great Aretha Franklin has apparently joined the list of celebrities like Prince and others who died without leaving a will. Some might argue that “creative types” can’t be bothered with such matters, but now the “Queen of Soul’s” $80 million estate – – like those of other mega-wealthy stars–will be ripe for legal battles by people making claims against the estate. Often, people claiming to be a child or other relative of the decedent suddenly surface looking for their piece of the pie.

By having a comprehensive estate plan, anyone – – not just celebrities – – can use living trusts to avoid probate and dispose of their assets in a faster, less costly, and more private manner than going through the public process of probating a will–or worse–administering the estate of someone who died intestate (“without a will”).

Reportedly, Franklin’s niece will be administering the estate which is expected to be divided among Franklin’s four sons since she was not married at the time of her death. Intestacy statutes differ by state, but they govern how estate assets must be divided and distributed when there is no will. They generally provide that certain percentages go to certain relatives, depending on marital status, and the existence of children and/or parents.

Reportedly, her oldest son is 63 years old and has special needs. It’s very important for the parents of special needs children to seek legal counsel from an estate planning attorney with special needs planning experience. Often, establishing a special needs trust is critical to protect the special needs child from creditors and, more importantly, to protect them from losing their government benefits and allowing them to enjoy a higher quality of life.

If you would like assistance with an initial estate plan or would like to modify an existing one, the estate planning experts at Merlino & Gonzalez can help you. Contact the office today to schedule a consultation.

From our offices in Staten Island, New York, and East Brunswick, New Jersey, we represent clients in both states in all matters of estate planning as well as in business and residential real estate transactions.