Some Illinois fans of singer Aretha Franklin may have heard that when she died in 2018, she did not have a will. However, on May 20, three wills that were found in her home were filed in court. Franklin’s longtime attorney has asked the court to rule on their validity.
Two of the wills are from 2010 and were located in a locked cabinet. A third will, from 2014, was found under couch cushions in a notebook. That will reportedly is four pages long, has many deletions and notes in the margins, and has passages that are virtually illegible.
A statement from the estate’s personal representative, a niece of Franklin’s, reiterated her commitment to neutrality and dedication to Franklin’s legacy. A plan to have experts appraise personal items, memorabilia and other belongings was approved by a probate court judge in April. The estate has paid millions in back taxes to the IRS already, and the agency has filed a $6 million claim.
Not every person who is appointed executor or estate administrator faces these kinds of challenges, but for people who do not have a strong background in finances and legal issues, acting in this capacity can feel overwhelming. A person who is responsible for estate administration and probate is permitted to hire an attorney and other professionals if necessary for assistance with various tasks. These could include finding all relevant estate planning paperwork, locating assets, notifying relevant agencies of the person’s death, notifying beneficiaries, paying creditors, filing taxes, and distributing assets as specified in the estate plan. If there is a will, it generally must go through probate. If there is no will, the situation could be more complicated, and the court determines which next of kin will receive a person’s assets based on state law.