Aretha Franklin Died Without A Will Or Trust. Here’s Why You Should Care

Aretha Franklin Died Without A Will Or Trust. Here’s Why You Should Care


The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, died on Aug. 16, 2018, surrounded by family and friends, after battling pancreatic cancer for years. She was 76. The funeral will be held on Aug. 31 in Detroit,

Aretha had no will or trust at the time of her death, which means the intensely private, legendary singer’s finances will soon become very public in Oakland County Probate Court, the Detroit Free Press reported.

“All of us assume that big stars and celebrities have this taken care of, so it’s a big surprise when that’s not the case,” said Tunde Ogunlana, a certified fund specialist and family wealth advisor at Axial Family Advisors.

Aretha’s four sons agreed to let the court appoint Aretha’s niece, Sabrina Garrett Owens, as the personal representative to administer the estate.

“Her family has banded together to quickly protect her estate. But there are unavoidable problems on the horizon because Aretha did not do the proper estate planning,” wrote husband-and-wife attorney-team Danielle and Andy Mayoras in Forbes.

The size of Aretha’s estate is uncertain. Forbes reports unconfirmed estimates that her net worth was around $80 million.

Aretha Franklin performs at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia in 2010. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)


It’s impossible to place a dollar figure on the value of Aretha’s song catalog, Los Angeles attorney Don Wilson told the Detroit Free Press. Wilson said he represented Franklin in copyright matters, song publishing and record deals for the past 28 years. She owned her original compositions including hits such as “Think” and “Rock Steady.”

“I was after her for a number of years to do a trust,” Wilson said. “It would have expedited things and kept them out of probate, and kept things private.”

Many people, famous or not, fail to prepare a will, Wilson said, because nobody likes to give careful thought to their own demise.

“Emotionally, a lot of people can’t bring themselves to do this,” Ogunlana said. “I’ve seen a lot of fighting over the will. I’m sure that was not her intent (the fighting Aretha’s sons are about to go through).”

When you die rich and famous, managing the assets gets complicated. Aretha’s creditors and the IRS have to be paid.  There could be a major battle over how to value Aretha’s publicity rights, Forbes reported:

 “As we’ve seen with Michael Jackson’s Estate, and will soon be happening with Prince’s Estate, there could be a major battle over how to value Aretha’s publicity rights.”

The good thing is that it allows for this conversation, Ogunlana told Moguldom.

“It’s really telling the reader that it’s a myth and falsehood that you have to be an Aretha or a Michael Jackson to have an estate plan,” Ogunlana said. “This may be one of the few ways to get millennials thinking about the importance of this type of planning.”