Over the past 24 hours there have been countless articles, blogs and news stories released highlighting Aretha Franklin and her choice not to invest in having a will created to protect the enormous financial legacy and estate valued at nearly $80 Million USD amassed over the span of her 58 year musical career.
Many of the articles that I have read seem to have a somewhat critical tone. While I must admit that I am not only shocked but truthfully disappointed to hear that Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, passed away intestate (the legal term used to describe someone who has passed away without a will) I do not believe that it is our right or job to judge the financial decisions of others without completely having an understanding of their motives and reasoning. Nonetheless, Ms. Franklin’s has blessed us with the opportunity to learn from her choice and to have an open and honest discussion about the potential repercussions associated with not preparing for death.
Before we go any further it is vital that you have an understanding of what a will is along with a three other key terms that will be used in this blog:
Will – a will or testament is a legal document by which a person, the testator, expresses their wishes as to how their property is to be distributed at death, and names one or more persons, the executor, to manage the estate until its final distribution.
Estate- All the money and property owned by a particular person, especially at death.
Trust Fund – a fund comprised of a variety of assets intended to provide benefits to an individual or organization. A grantor (Ms. Franklin for the sake of this blog) establishes a trust fund to provide financial security to an individual, most often a child or grandchild, or organizations, such as a charity or other nonprofit organizations.
Life Insurance Policy- is a contract between an insurer and a policyholder in which the insurer guarantees payment of a death benefit to named beneficiaries upon the death of the insured. The insurance company promises a death benefit in consideration of the payment of premium by the insured.
Now that we have gotten our terminology lesson for this week out of the way (lol) let’s proceed and explore the 3 Consequences of Not Planning for Death that We Can Learn from the Queen of Soul:
1. You Have No Control over What Happens When You Die
The first and probably the most important consequence of dying without a will is that you have no control over what happens after you die. On the surface, this may not seem like much of a big deal being that logically you will be deceased but when you look a little deeper this can cause huge problems for the loved ones that you leave behind.
For example, let’s say that Ms. Franklin requested that a trusted family member of friend provide a certain level of financial and physical care for her special needs son upon her death. Being that there is no will detailing exactly what that level of care must consist of; unless there is a trust fund or life insurance policy with her son or his legal guardian listed as the beneficiary, his lifestyle and quality of care can be potentially disrupted.
In additions to the impact of being intestate could have on her son, Ms. Franklin has no legal “voice” in any other financial matters that may arise. Should her surviving loved ones choose to they could completely disregard any wishes that she expressed while living concerning her belongings, property and other personal matters. A will acts as a voice beyond the grave ensuring that the things that were most important to us are handled properly when we die.
2. You Create Unnecessary Legal Issues and Cost
Due to the emotionally charged energy of grief simple disagreements amongst loved ones tend to become unnecessarily ugly, public and expensive. Money (especially large amounts of money) can change people and has a way of revealing the true motives, actions, and mindsets of others. When disagreements take place between family members who have or even only believe that they have an equal stake in financial matters things can get very ugly very fast. In many cases these disagreements lead to bickering, broken relationships, gossiping, theft and in the most extreme cases even murder.
Any disagreement between family members concerning funeral or burial arrangements, properties, accounts and personal belongings has the potential to cause the entire estate of the deceased to be turned over to the probate courts. In Ms. Franklin’s case this would be a worst case scenario because what once may have been private family drama can be made public. This could possibly tarnish her public image and legacy should any substantial debts or any other damaging undesirable personal information be discovered and released.
One of the major benefits of taking the time to delegate bequest through creating a will and/or trust is that you drastically reduce the risk of causing friction among loved ones as well as eliminate litigiousness. In addition, the legal process for handling probate matters can be very long in drawn out. This has the potential eat away at whatever monies exist. Also keep in mind that rulings are not always guaranteed to work out in the favor of your loved ones meaning that your estate could be completely turned over to the state.
3. You Steal the Opportunity for Your Loved Ones to Experience Peace
Far worse than thinking of your family members not being able to survive financially or even fighting over the money that you leave behind is the thought that they may not ever be able to find peace in their loss. Of course I’m not saying that money is the most important thing to consider when someone passes away but it is something that needs to be strongly considered. If your loved one/ones are caught up in the emotional and legal fight to have their say in what happens with your estate it robs them of the opportunity to focus on their loss and working through their grief. This can lead to ramifications such as stress, illness, depression and anxiety all to be experienced while grieving.
One of the main responses that I receive when asking my clients whether or not they have a will is “I don’t need a will, I’m not rich. Regardless of its monetary value, everyone has an estate. What happens with that estate when you die it totally up to you. You have the power to outline your wishes and desires. I can promise you that by doing this you are giving your loved a gift that will be appreciated greatly and provide a level of peace that is immeasurable.
Should you have any questions about how to go about creating your will or pre-arranged funeral and burial plans for yourself or your loved ones please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com and be sure to visit www.thegravewoman.com/blog for weekly YouTube and blog updates..
I always love to hear from you. Thank you for reading.
Joél Simone Anthony, also known as ‘The Grave Woman,’ is a licensed funeral director and embalmer. She is dedicated to eliminating misconceptions about post-life preparation while stimulating an open, honest and straight forward discussion about death. You can submit your comments, questions and requests to firstname.lastname@example.org or by using our contact page.