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'Surprising' Swerve on Aretha's Estate

Franklin may not have left a will or trust, her longtime attorney says
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2018 8:51 AM CDT
In this July 26, 2010, file photo Aretha Franklin poses for a portrait in Philadelphia.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(Newser) – Nearly a week after her death from advanced pancreatic cancer at the age of 76, more details are emerging about Aretha Franklin's assets. One of the more notable tidbits, per her longtime attorney: The legendary performer may have left no will or trust behind. "I was after her for a number of years to do a trust," Don Wilson tells the Detroit Free Press of the headache now apparently created, with the singer's four sons making a court filing Tuesday as interested parties in her estate. "It would have expedited things and kept them out of probate, and kept things private." TMZ notes the lack of a Franklin will—which it says was revealed in court documents that listed Franklin as "intestate"—would be "especially surprising," as one of her sons has special needs that necessitates financial assistance.

But Arthur Reed, who once served as a Franklin attorney, says it's not 100% that his former client didn't have instructions laid out somewhere. "You have [estate] representatives for numerous reasons that have legal ramifications that don't necessarily point to a person having or not having a will," he tells the Detroit News. Under Michigan law, the children of unmarried individuals who die without a will equally split all of that person's assets, though other parties could choose to contest that apportioning. "I just hope [her estate] doesn't end up getting so hotly contested," Wilson tells the Free Press. "Any time they don't leave a trust or will, there always ends up being a fight." (Madonna has been forced to defend her "tribute" to Franklin.)

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