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For Your Afterlife Wishes

A sudden twist in the remarkable story of Aretha Franklin.

Three handwritten notes were found recently said to be the lost wills of the Queen of Soul.

The mystery, what we can learn & why it matters.

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Backstory

  • Aretha Franklin died last August of pancreatic cancer; she had no known will.
  • This month, three handwritten wills were found: two from 2010 in a previously locked cabinet & one from 2014 in a notebook under a couch cushion.
  • Franklin’s lawyer of 40+ years isn’t sure if they’re valid, and filed them with a Michigan court to find out.
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What To Know:

  • When a person dies without a will, their estate ($ & property) is distributed to their heirs based on state default inheritance laws through a court-supervised process: probate court.
  • A will allows a person to arrange for their estate to be distributed as they see fit w/o applying default laws. Similarly, a living trust may avoid probate entirely.
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Can You Write Your Own Will By Hand?

  • More than half of U.S. states allow handwritten wills.
  • State laws vary on requirements for handwritten wills.
  • Generally speaking, a handwritten will must be (1) signed, (2) dated, and (3) either entirely (or at least mostly) written by the deceased.
  • Some also require a witness.
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It Ain’t Over When It’s Over

  • Having a will doesn’t necessarily mean you can leave *all* of your estate to whomever you want – state laws impose requirements for leaving a fixed % to surviving spouses & minor children.
  • Even a properly executed will may face legal challenges for issues like allegations of fraud or mental incapacity.
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What's Next For The Franklin Wills? Lots of time and money spent in probate court! To begin, the court will likely order handwriting analysis to determine if the wills found were in fact written by the Queen of Soul.

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