The sad announcement came moments after America lost its Queen of Soul this summer: Aretha Franklin had died of pancreatic cancer. Then more news broke: She left no will or trust, leaving the fate of her $80 million fortune up to the Michigan courts.
It’s incredible that the woman who captivated the world with her voice and strength didn’t sign a will, but it’s common among those with a terminal illness. Denial of death and the related procrastination about end-of-life planning are the norms among healthy people with active lives and no plans to die this year.
Add to this the daily physical and emotional toll of a terminal illness, the fear of having difficult discussions with already-stressed loved ones, and the magnitude of acknowledging your mortality, and— it’s not surprising that many with a terminal diagnosis put off estate planning until too late.
“I was after her for years to do a trust,” Aretha’s long-time lawyer, Don Wilson told the Detroit Free Press. “It would have expedited things and kept them out of probate, and kept things private. Any time they don’t leave a trust or will, there always ends up being a fight.”
It’s best, of course, to contact a reputable, experienced estate lawyer who is safe, caring, and equipped to lead you to make and document thoughtful end-of-life decisions before a crisis strikes. Then trust your lawyer to do everything possible to ensure the long-term peace of mind of you, your loved ones, and your favorite causes.
About the author:
John O’Grady leads a full-service estate and trust law firm in San Francisco. His practice includes Estate Planning & Administration, Probate and Trust Litigation.