22 Aug 2018
The recent passing of legend Aretha Franklin not only robbed us of one of the world’s finest musical artists but it also brought into sharp focus a key area of life and financial planning.
Following her death, it emerged that Ms Franklin, with an estimated fortune of around $80 million, died without making a will.
It’s possibly not something many of us give a great deal of thought to, especially in our younger years, but the question of what happens to our property and wealth when we die is a very important one.
Very simply, everything from our home to savings and investments forms part of our estate and ideally we all wish to have some control over what happens to them when we die. Making a will ensures that when we die, our affairs are dealt with in accordance with our wishes.
A will is a legal document which makes it clear how you wish your assets to be shared out. An executor must be appointed, or in some cases it can be more than one. Their role is to manage your estate until all matters are concluded.
If you die without a will in place the law of intestacy will apply to your estate. The division of your estate will then very much depend on your family and financial circumstances. Whilst Ms Franklin was an American and both US federal and state laws around intestacy will differ from Scottish law similar issues will arise and leaving your estate to the mercy of intestacy can make for an unexpected, uncertain and complicated outcome.
This can also cause additional stress for family members and adds time and cost to the administration of your estate.
In the case of Aretha Franklin, she was survived by four children and four grandchildren and it appears Michigan state law dictates that her estate will pass equally between her children. Whether this is what she wished to happen is unknown.
In Scotland, children do not need to be beneficiaries of a will, although they do have an entitlement called Legal Rights which they can claim where they are not named as beneficiaries, or as an alternative to any entitlement under the will.
Other artists who died intestate include Prince whose estate is still subject to Court proceedings more than two years after his death and Jimi Hendrix who died leaving a 30 year legal battle over his estate and royalties.
Julie McMahon, Associate, Aberdein Considine who specialises in Wills and Executries, said: “Making a will can save a great deal of cost and hassle, but most importantly, it means that your wishes are reflected and ultimately carried out.
"It’s also important to know that once you make a will, you can change it over time as your life changes. Making a will can at times be a complex and involved process and you should you seek the advice of a solicitor or professional who specialises in this field, before making any decisions.”
Wills are often straightforward, but some involve complicated arrangements and financial affairs, such as Inheritance Tax - all the more reason to ensure they are drawn up by a qualified solicitor.
By offering property, legal and financial services together, Aberdein Considine can help you see the opportunities that other cannot. Our experts will work together to make sure that there is as little Inheritance Tax payable as possible thus leaving more for your beneficiaries.
If you would like to speak to someone in our private client department about planning your estate, click here.