Aretha Franklin died without a Will leaving an $80 million fortune10-Sep-2018

By Gillian Knowles, Head of Wills, Trusts & Estates

Reports from the US state that Aretha Franklin died without making a Will leaving an $80 million (£62.4 million) fortune. Despite being ill for several years, Mrs Franklin did not legally record who she wanted to inherit her vast estate.

Michigan law dictates that, in these circumstances, the fortune is to be shared between Mrs Franklin’s children equally. The Intestacy Rules do not take in to account the fact that one of the children has special needs and requires a lot more financial and medical support for the rest of his life.

Aretha Franklin joins Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Amy Winehouse and Prince on a list of many celebrities who have died intestate. Long and expensive battles over such large estates could be avoided with a properly drawn up Will. It is a common misconception that your next of kin get to decide how your assets are divided if you die without a Will. This is not the case and there are inflexible rules in place (the Intestacy Rules) which govern who gets what. For example, unmarried partners (so called common law spouse) receive nothing under the Intestacy Rules.

Recent reports suggest around 30 million adults in the UK do not have a Will, 54% of these people have children and 64% are unmarried couples. This type of news headline really should serve as a wakeup call to individuals without a Will.

For more advice about making a Will including the rules about Inheritance Tax and Care Fees please contact a member of the Wills, Trusts & Estates Department at Cullimore Dutton Solicitors on 01244 356 789 or email

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.