Recently, news broke that music legend Aretha Franklin —one of the most influential and widely loved artists of her generation — passed away without any sort of estate planning in place. Not only did she die without a trust to hold her assets, she did not have a will in place either.
Now, not only must her surviving loved ones navigate the emotional difficulties of her loss, they must also wait on the court to assess and distribute her estate as it sees fit. Not only will this take many months or even years to complete, the process itself may significantly decrease the value of the estate overall.
This unfortunate turn of events certainly does not overshadow Franklin's many accomplishments in life, but it does shine a spotlight on just how important it is for every adult to create a will and regularly update it. Without a will, a person's estate is essentially seized by the state until it completes the probate process and distributes the estate as it sees fit.
Even for those who do not have large estates, there is little or no value in leaving it up to the state to determine how their assets get dispersed. It is much wiser to simply take the time to create a valid will that clearly states the wishes of the testator. Even if the specifics of estate distribution are not important to a particular person, a will also allows the testator to lay out their preferences for the final disposition of their remains, as well as for any funeral or memorial service.
If you do not have a will and are a legal adult, take time to make your wishes known and clearly outlined in a will for your loved ones. While you may not generate headlines when you pass away, you can avoid lengthy delays and ensure that your loved ones do not suffer needlessly while executing your wishes.