Livens & Reed, PLLC

Franklin's handwritten wills raise new inheritance questions

The news in Texas and around the nation was full of stories regarding how Aretha Franklin died without a will in August of 2018. Many questions involving inheritance issues arose since there was no estate plan in place, specifying who should receive her assets. Recently, three handwritten wills were found at Franklin's home, creating even more confusion about the Queen of Soul's legacy.

A total of 16 pages, full of notes and edits, were discovered. These documents would not even be considered as wills in several states. However, Ms. Franklin's home state, as well as Texas, accepts holographic, or handwritten, wills in some cases. However, there are guidelines that must be met in order for such wills to qualify.

The documents must be written in the testator's handwriting, and they must be dated. Each of the three wills found in Ms. Franklin's home were properly dated. Yet, there are still questions about the legitimacy of the handwriting. Experts agree that forensic or handwriting specialists should be called upon to examine the documents. Other issues include a determination as to whether Ms. Franklin intended these documents to be her last will and testament and not simply notes for a possible future document.

Other celebrities who passed away with no will in place were Prince, James Brown and Jimi Hendrix. To avoid any question of who should receive one's estate and settle any inheritance issues, it would be wise to seek the guidance of a Texas attorney familiar with estate law. A knowledgeable lawyer will help clients develop plans that will give them peace of mind in knowing that their affairs will be handled as they desire.

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