The beloved "Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin, recently passed away from cancer at the age of 76. In the aftermath of her death, while fans mourn her loss, family members may struggle to divide her assets since she reportedly did not have any estate plans in place. Every state, including New York, has laws that dictate how these estates are divided in these circumstances -- but these laws cannot prevent litigation issues.
The singer reportedly died with a net worth estimated to be about $80 million. This figure likely does not include any other holdings or copywrites she may have held on her or others' musical projects. It is also possible she owned property and other assets that may not be included in that estimate. Since she died intestate, some financial professionals expect that her four children will be the heirs of her estate.
When one has an estate plan, it dictates how all property and assets are to be disbursed among chosen heirs. Barring such plans, it becomes difficult to determine how the property owner would have wished for his or her valuables to be divided among family, friends or other selected recipients. However, even with documents in place, it does not prevent disgruntled heirs from seeking to challenge these plans through litigation.
Financial professionals have speculated that much of the business surrounding Franklin's estate will be conducted privately. Regardless of the lack of a formal estate plan, those who had amassed considerable wealth or enjoyed celebrity are more likely to draw challenges through the courts even when there is a will or trusts in place. It pays to keep in mind that New York residents do not need to be a public figure or own numerous assets in order to draft an estate plan. Those who are interested in learning how these types of plans may protect their heirs can consult with an experienced attorney.