The importance of having a valid estate plan cannot be overstated. History is full of examples of famous people who died without a will. Aretha Franklin is the latest celebrity whose estate underwent a lengthy and expensive court battle between family members for five years due to the lack of a clear plan. The numbers of non-celebrities whose families undergo lengthy and expensive court battles when their loved ones die without a clear plan is even higher.
After her passing, Ms. Franklin had two handwritten wills – one found folded up inside a notebook that was stashed under a couch cushion at her home. After spending five years in the lawsuit, a jury found this will was the valid will, favoring one brother over the others. The facts of the case are further summarized and can be read here:
Just to be clear, the lack of a validly written will led to a panel of several strangers who the family never met (a jury) deciding where all of their mother’s property went. The result of this type of lawsuit: families split apart by infighting that occurs when there is no clear path.
This type of do-it-yourself legal work often causes problems down the road that are more costly and time-consuming than hiring a professional to do it correctly in the first place. Online forms and ready-made legal documents are many times dreadfully insufficient or just plain wrong. As the old adage goes: you get what you pay for. All of these documents are far too important to gloss over – for celebrities and non-celebrities alike.
Every adult, no matter their social or economic status, should have a validly written will in place that takes into consideration current family circumstances. Don’t leave your estate and the care of your loved ones to chance – discuss your options with a qualified attorney today.