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Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin Left No Will: Why This Trend Must End

What wills are and why they’re important to asset management

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Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Here’s one celebrity trend you should avoid: having no will.

Aretha Franklin, who died Thursday in her Detroit home after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, did not have one in place, according to published reports. She was 76.

Her four sons on Tuesday filed a document with the Oakland County Probate Court in Michigan that lists themselves as interested parties in Franklin’s estate. A niece also asked the court to appoint her as personal representative of the estate.

Aretha Franklin performs on stage at the Park West Auditorium, Chicago, Illinois, March 23, 1992. 

Paul Natkin | Archive Photos | Getty Images
Aretha Franklin performs on stage at the Park West Auditorium, Chicago, Illinois, March 23, 1992.

Of course, Franklin wouldn’t be the first person to forgo plans for her assets. Nearly 60 percent of U.S. adults don’t have a will, according to Caring.com. She also isn’t the first celebrity to die without one.

While you might assume estate planning only applies to wealthy people, that’s not the case. An estate only refers to what you own: financial accounts, real estate and possessions.

Putting a plan in place for those assets helps ensure that upon your death, your wishes are carried out and that family squabbles don’t evolve into destroyed relationships.

In other words, it’s partly about making things easier for your loved ones during an already-difficult time.

Here are some basics that can go a long way toward leaving your affairs in order.

Yes, you should have a will

If you have little in the way of assets, you might think you don’t need one. Guess again.

If you pass away without it — called “dying intestate” — the legal system in your state will decide who gets your assets, no matter how massive or meager.

Worse, if minor children are left parentless and there is no will stating who you want to care for them, guess who appoints a guardian? A judge. And that’s after family members have potentially given their 2 cents.

“If no guardian is named, then it can be a free for all,” said Elise Gross, an estate-planning attorney and of counsel to the Presser Law Firm in Boca Raton, Florida. “It could be an ugly and uncomfortable situation, which is not best for the children.”

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin at NYSE on Christmas album and possible biopic (2008)  

Choose an executor

The person you name as executor of your estate will face what can be a daunting job, so choose wisely.

Things such as liquidating accounts, ensuring your assets go to the proper beneficiaries, paying any debts not discharged (i.e., taxes owed to the IRS), and even selling your home could be among the duties undertaken by the executor.

“You want it to be someone you trust, someone who’s financially savvy enough to understand things and can deal with the beneficiaries,” Gross said. “It’s a big job.”

In other words, just because you’ve known your best friend since elementary school doesn’t mean handling the challenge of being an executor is up her alley. Same goes for a trustee, if you set up a trust.

Check account beneficiaries

People often mistakenly think that in their will, they can name who gets the money in retirement accounts, life insurance policies and the like. Wrong.

The person listed as the beneficiary on each of those accounts will get the money even if your will says otherwise.

Also, when life changes, remember to update the beneficiaries on those accounts.

More from Personal Finance:
How to avoid hidden retirement account fees
Consumers are their own worst enemy when it comes to paying down debt
Four steps to fight off high medical expenses

Create an advance health-care directive

Also known as a living will, this document outlines your wishes if you become incapacitated due to illness or injury.

Say you are on life support. Instead of a loved one making the agonizing decision whether to end all life-saving measures, your wishes would be specified in a legal record.

Assign powers of attorney

If you become incapacitated, the people you grant powers of attorney will handle your medical and financial affairs if you cannot.

Often, the person who is given this responsibility when it comes to your health care is different from whom you would name to handle your financial affairs.

As with choosing an executor, make sure whoever you hand the financial reins to is trustworthy and smart.

“This person can be messing with your assets while you’re alive,” Gross said. “You’re giving someone signficant power.”

Make a list of critical documents

While it can be hard to imagine your own death, picture your family having to search through drawers for your original will, documents regarding your bank accounts and other assets, and maybe even your Social Security number.

The best way to avoid forcing them to deal with that task on top of mourning is to leave an organized list of information that the will’s executor will need to settle your estate. Be sure this includes passwords so your online accounts can be accessed.

“I think there should be a binder that has all the information and you tell whoever is in charge where they would find it,” Gross said. “Just be careful where you put it, and don’t make any copies.”

Follow up on your plan

Life changes. And as it does, so should your will.

Couples split up, relationships change and new assets are acquired or disposed of. The person you named as your child’s guardian might have developed an unsavory lifestyle, or your executor might have passed away.

Any time a major change occurs in your life, it’s time to make sure your will reflects it. Otherwise, review it every few years.

“It’s important to at least revisit it to make sure if you’re good with how it is or see if you have changes to make,” Gross said.

Ash Exantus aka Ash Cash is one of the nation’s top personal finance experts. Dubbed as the Hip-Hop Financial Motivator, he uses a culturally responsive approach in teaching financial literacy. He is also a speaker, and bestselling author of six books. Ash has established himself as a thought leader and trusted voice with Corporate America, Colleges, Churches, and Community based organizations. Ash is best known for helping people maximize their full potentials by giving them the inspiration, tools, and resources needed to live their best lives. For more info on Ash please visit www.IamAshCash.com

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Personal Finances

Serena Williams Umpire Controversy: Why Knowing (and Using the Rules) Against Financial Institutions is Important in Personal Finances

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Photo: GettyImages

Passion, as it pertains to sports, is what makes the game exciting, and when an athlete expresses that raw emotion, it makes for a more entertaining experience for the fans in the stand and viewers at home.

Unless you’re Serena Williams, then expressing emotion can cause you to lose the U.S. Open. Saturday, (Sept. 8) Naomi Osaka took the title defeating Williams, however, it was the 23 time Grand Slam Champion winner’s confrontation with umpire Carlos Ramos that made headlines.

During the final woman’s match, Ramos issued a warning to Williams over “coaching” because he thought her coach was giving her cues on the court. Williams disputed the matter stating “I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose.”

Ramos later gave her point penalty after she smashed her racket. She confronted him again to complain and called him a thief, to which he gave her “verbal abuse” penalty which cost her the game.

Backstage at a press conference, Williams said she hopes her expressing her emotions on the tennis court will one day be accepted among female athletes the way they are so liberally by male athletes.

“I just feel like the fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions and that want to express themselves, and they want to be a strong woman, and they’re going to be able to do that because of today. Maybe it didn’t work out for me, but it’s going to work out for the next person.”

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Personal Finances

Will Smith & Secrets To A Lasting Marriage

Establishing Why Discussing Finances is Key in Building a Great Relationship

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Photo: GettyImages

It takes work, homie.

Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith are the contemporary role models for romantic relationships. They have been public about their hardships and the ways in which they have overcome them. The couple consistently dish advice about love on their respective socials. Today, Will Smith delivers a message through the words of Eric Thomas AKA Hip Hop Preacher.He uploaded a clip of one of ETs talks with a caption that sums up his interpretation of the speech: “There can be NO LOVE without LABOR!” The video shows Hip Hop inspiring a crowd to pay the price in order to salvage their failing relationships. He shares his own personal experience with passion.

“You can write me a letter and tell me. You can tell me on the phone you’re through with me. I invested too much. I invested too much to quit. I made too many sacrifices to give up. Listen to me, that’s why it’s so easy for you to quit, cause you ain’t paid nothing for it…If you leave, you will not leave me over the phone or through a letter. You will look me in my face and tell me you gone…after I bring you the roses.”

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Personal Finances

Jim Carey and Woke Nikes

Why Woke Capitalism is the New Trend for Brands and Consumers Alike

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Photo: Youtube

The comedian makes politics accessible.

Jim Carrey brought his usual boisterous self on the set of Real Time With Bill Maher. It took the guy less than 30 seconds to bring up an important social issue while humoring the crowd.

The actor proudly flaunted his footwear, resting his feet on the host’s desk. “Check this out. I went out today and bought me some Nikes!” The crowd cheered and laugh when he poked fun at the shoe’s symbolism: “I bought me some freedom-friendly Nikes!”

Although the whole bit was a show of humor, Carrey is serious about the state of American society. He worries about the generation of kids “growing up right now… who are learning to lie, that lying is OK, that it’s fake news, that you’re supposed to hate half the country.”

He preached a message of unity and tolerance towards others.

 “If anything, if anything, we’ve got to get back to a place where we realize that a vote is not who you are, and because you voted Republican you’re not stupid, you’re not different, you’re not worthless. I can break bread with anybody who voted for Trump, we could find some common ground to love each other. Just stop doing stupid s**t.”

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