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The Daily Dish Relationships

Aretha Franklin Didn't Have a Will — So Who's Getting Her $80 Million Estate?

The singer passed away in Detroit, Michigan, on August 16.

By Marianne Garvey

Aretha Franklin had an $80 million estate when she died — and no will. Why? And what does that mean for her kids?

It was a shock to many that she didn’t hammer out her assets, especially knowing she had been ill with pancreatic cancer for enough time to make out a will. It’s a possibility a will was “low on the priority list” for the singer, who died at her Detroit home surrounded by friends and family.

According to Business Insider, Franklin likely had “a house, probably a financial account of some kind — a brokerage account, stocks, bond, cash…investments of a wide variety — perhaps in real estate ventures, other businesses that she may own or have an interest in … and valuable personal property including awards and gold records.”

But without a will, as TMZ reports, where will her assets go? Under Michigan state law (she passed away in Detroit) her assets will be divided equally among her four children. The executor is appointed by the court and is in charge of transferring the assets. It will likely fall to a family member or a business manager. 

Attorney Steven E. Trytten, partner at Anglin Flewelling Rasmussen Campbell & Trytten law firm in Pasadena, CA., tells Personal Space that he handles families fighting over wills (or lack of one) all the time. 

He notes a few interesting things:

"It’s not as surprising to me [that Aretha didn't have a will] only because creative people who are that successful are able to turn things to handlers to be able to stay in a creative frame of mind," Trytten says. "A lot of time you don’t want to be bothered with details and legal things, someone in her position might say I just don’t want to deal with this, and then it never gets taken care of. I’ve seen it happen with Elon Musk-type people who are so into what they’re doing they forget about the rest."

Trytten adds that from an outsider's point of view an $80 million estate is extraordinary, and that even though under Michigan law it will be divided between her kids equally, it may turn ugly. 

"Anytime you die without a will you’re making it really hard on the people you leave behind, and if you’re a celebrity multiply that by 100," he says. "People will step forward and ask to be appointed as executor, and by dying without a will, if there’s any division within the family that will come out. With a regular person, the estate administrator is simply wrapping up and distributing what's left and you’re done. With celebrities, all their intellectual property and songs will have a spike in popularity and the estate gets that business, it could be millions more."

Before the estate gets divvied up, the Queen of Soul's family has scheduled a multi-day “celebration of her life” next week, with an open casket memorial at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. A funeral for family and close friends will be held August 31.

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