Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” may be one of the greatest musical artists of the 20th century, but her estate planning leaves much to be desired. According to Fox Business, after she died, her estate was searched for any sign of a will. Unfortunately, there were multiple wills located, all handwritten, and all have been submitted to the probate court to determine their veracity and admissibility.
Unfortunately, handwritten wills that don’t conform to formal legal standards- known as holographic wills- are not usually admissible under New York law. And even under the limited circumstances where they are (such as when they’re written by someone in active military service, or when they’re written by a mariner at sea), they create all sorts of problems, since it’s hard to authenticate them and determine when they were written. There can also be additional issues if there are multiple holographic wills, as in the case of Ms. Franklin, since it can be difficult to determine which represents the most recent and authentic expression of the decedent’s testamentary intent. These issues mean more time in probate court, more risk that the will might be contested, and a greater risk the will may be invalidated, causing the entire estate to fall into intestacy.
While there are many things to emulate about Aretha Franklin, her estate planning strategy is not one of them. If you want to write a will or explore other estate planning options, please call the experienced attorneys at Wingate, Kearney & Cullen, LLP. We have assisted and advised clients with asset planning and the transfer of wealth. With law offices conveniently located in Brooklyn, New York, and Melville, New York, our lawyers are available to assist residents of the five boroughs of New York City and Nassau and Suffolk County on Long Island with their estate planning needs. If you are looking to write a will or start a trust, call (718) 852-5900.