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Lessons to be learned from Aretha Franklin's estate issues

Anyone in Georgia not aware of the many potential benefits of being proactive with estate planning can learn a lesson from the Queen of Soul. Soon after Aretha Franklin passed away after losing her battle with pancreatic cancer, it was reported that she left no will or trust in place to help determine what will happen to her estimated $80 million estate. All four of the late singer's sons have since stepped up as interested parties.

One of the reasons why an estate planning attorney often recommends advance planning is to avoid issues like the ones that may affect Franklin's estate for many years. The singer's sons have appointed her niece to act as the personal representative of the estate. Having a trust established would have expedited the distribution of Franklin's assets, eliminated the need for the probate process and kept matters private. The "Respect" singer was said to be fiercely private with her finances, so much so that she would insist on receiving cash payments for performances.

Not having a will or trust increases the chances of legal challenges from family members and other parties who may believe they have a valid claim to certain assets. Franklin isn't alone when it comes to celebrity estate problems. Robin Williams' wife and three children ended up in a legal battle over his estate following the actor's death, and Prince didn't make plans for what would happen with his famed recording complex.

Franklin did have an estate planning lawyer. It's unclear why she didn't create a will or establish a trust, even though her entertainment lawyer reportedly urged her to do so. This type of planning isn't just for celebrities or wealthy individuals. A lawyer can offer advice and assistance to anyone wishing to have a say in how their estate will be protected or distributed following their death.

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