Aretha Franklin can teach you more than a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

On this episode of Retirement Starts Today, you’ll learn from her estate plan (or lack thereof). After hearing about this estate plan gone haywire Bret and I will team up to answer a listener’s question on how you can transition from a saving to a spending mindset.

Listen in to ensure that your estate isn’t tied up for years while your heirs battle out the details in court.

Outline of This Episode

  • [2:22] Why are the notes found in Aretha Franklin’s couch a valid will?
  • [5:35] My takeaways
  • [13:23] How to switch from a saving to a spending mindset in retirement

What does it take to constitute a valid will?

Aretha Franklin’s music lives on, however, her lack of an estate plan has created its own infamous legacy. Those who wish to secure their assets and carry on their wishes after their passing can learn from her cautionary tale.

The Queen of Soul had written a will by hand (known as a holographic will–which is not valid in all states) in 2010 that was thought to be her final wishes. However, a twist came when two notes that were dated 2014 were found under her couch cushions. These last two papers have now been deemed by a Michigan court to be her valid last will and testament.

When multiple wills are presented, the most recent one typically takes precedence. In this case, a Michigan jury decided that the 2014 couch notes were Franklin’s final wishes.

Proper planning could have prevented the devaluation of her estate

Franklin’s estate was once valued at over $80 million. However, due to estate tax, legal fees from family litigation, probate court costs, and other unpaid taxes, this value was significantly reduced. Proper planning, like setting up a revocable trust or doing estate tax planning with irrevocable trusts, could have saved much of these costs.

Aretha Franklin’s case underscores the importance of proper estate planning. While her music legacy remains untarnished, the financial legacy she left her family was mired in legal disputes and unnecessary costs. It serves as a reminder to ensure our wishes are clear, legally sound, and in the best interest of our loved ones.

What can you learn from this lesson?

Be clear about your final wishes. You want to ensure that there is no opportunity for misunderstanding. If it’s not in writing it didn’t happen.

Make sure that your heirs know where your documents are located and that they have access to them. It doesn’t help if your will is in the safe that you are the only one who knows the password.

Understand that your beneficiaries are separate from your will and that the beneficiaries trump the will. Hiring an estate planning attorney will help to ensure that your wishes are followed after you pass.

Resources & People Mentioned

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