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A Celebrity Estate Plan Lesson (Part 1)

Over the years I have written a number of blog posts about the reasons everyone should have a will and more specifically a formal one.  Too many adults don’t and high profile celebrities are no different than the general population.  I wrote 10 years ago about the litigation surrounding James Gandolfini’s estate because he didn’t leave a will.  Aretha Franklin is another celebrity example.

Franklin died in 2018 but only this month a trial settled – at least for the moment – the issue of what document should be considered to be her last wishes with regard to the assets that comprise her estate.  That’s because she didn’t leave a formal will prepared an attorney.  Instead she left what is known as a holographic will – one that she hand wrote and signed rather than one typewritten and witnessed and notarized in accordance with state law.

In fact she left two holographic wills.  Both were discovered in her home. A 2010 will was found in a locked cabinet and a 2014 will was found in the couch cushions in her living room.  Both were handwritten and signed by Franklin but differed as to their terms.  This led to a predicable legal dispute amongst 3 of her sons as to which document should be considered her “last will”.

After a 2 day trial, a jury deliberated for an hour before deciding that the 2014 “couch” document should be admitted as Franklin’s last will.  Next week I’ll tell you more.