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Are You The Next Aretha Franklin?

Posted: September 10, 2018

Rose Petals


If you have anywhere near the talent, tenacity and soul that she did, then we certainly hope so! Unfortunately, there quite likely is something else you have in common. In fact, it is something that she had in common with Prince, Heath Ledger, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Gandolfini, and Howard Hughes, among others. All of them failed to plan ahead and have a simple will or an adequate estate plan.


The unexpected death of a celebrity highlights the family drama, court battles, and expense that accompany a death without a will or estate plan. Here are just a few examples:

  • Prince did not have a will, leaving his six siblings and executor engaged in a legal battle. Reportedly, the executor and lawyers for the estate have been paid nearly $9 million since his death in 2016. The family is still waiting for distribution of money and property.
  • Howard Hughes passed away in 1976 and did not have a will. His estate wasn’t settled and closed until 2010! That’s 34 years of litigation to divide his estate among 11 cousins.
  • Heath Ledger thought to prepare a will, but did not update it when he had a child with Michelle Williams. His out-of-date will left everything to his parents and sisters with no mention of his child.


What does this have to do with you?  Surveys estimate that between 50% and 70% of Americans do not have a basic estate plan. Do you? If not, why not?


The word “estate” causes many people to think that they do not have enough wealth to need an estate plan. That assumption is wrong. Many people don’t want to think about death or are afraid an estate plan is too expensive. But think about it, we don’t hesitate to spend $1,000 or more every year or two on the latest smart phone or tablet.


Dying without an estate plan leaves a legal mess for your family. It is expensive, it is public, and it rips families apart. Siblings who got along their entire lives fight over a family heirloom. Worse yet, when tragedy hits and both parents are lost simultaneously, children can be caught in a battle between two different sides of the family.


So, what should you do? Consider a basic estate plan which consists of a revocable trust, a will and powers of attorney for property and health care. The cost varies, but in most instances the cost is a tiny fraction of an expensive court battle. The emotional cost of such fights is incalculable in dollars.


  • A Revocable Trust (sometimes called a “living trust”) is a private document that defines how you want your assets distributed. It will provide for the care and education of your spouse and children. The trust agreement will also contain directions for your own care during your lifetime, if you should become incapacitated.
  • A Will covers any assets not in the trust and it is filed publicly with the court. If you have minor children, your will allows you to nominate guardians for your children.
  • Powers of Attorney for Property and Healthcare identify who you want to handle your financial and healthcare decisions if you become incapacitated.


Be wary of do-it-yourself or online sources. While they may be quick and inexpensive, you will not have the benefit of experience and careful counsel. A document may be legal, but it may not be the the best solution for you and your family. The estate planning attorneys at Haskin Law take time to understand your unique needs and family situation to provide appropriate advice and documentation. Haskin Law has the experience, and the cost effective solutions, to give you peace of mind that you have provided for your most important asset – your family.


Please call us to get started on your estate plan. You will be glad you did.


These materials have been prepared by Haskin Law for informational and educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not create, an attorney-client relationship.

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