How Aretha Franklin’s death turned probate finance focus on why you should have a will?

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When Aretha Franklin died aged 76 after battling pancreatic cancer the last thing on anyone's mind was her finances. But since her passing it has emerged that the musical megastar didn't have a will and that there was initially some confusion has to what would happen to her personal fortune of around £60million.

The Queen of Soul, as she was known, died on August 16 and in the days before her demise her lawyer, Don Wilson, had pleaded with his client to draft a will. He said: "I tried to convince her that she should do not just a will but a trust while she was still alive. She never told me, 'No, I don't want to do one'. She understood the need. It just didn't seem to be something she got around to."

Aretha died in Detroit, Michigan, where the law says that her estate will be split equally between her four sons, Clarence, Edward, Kecalf and Ted. At the time of her death it was reported that Aretha had around £1.5million worth of property in Detroit and owned the rights to the songs she had written during her illustrious career.

It is known that the soul diva was fiercely private about her financial matters but the fact that she didn't have a will means the detail of her monetary affairs will enter the public domain for all to see.

Like the pop princess, many Britons have neglected to write a will. Indeed, research at the tail end of last year showed three in five adults don’t have a will in place, with a third not ever having had the notion to write a will. The information from the poll, gleaned by researchers at insurer Royal London, showed that 26 per cent of those aged 55 and over have not written a will. Of these, one in six over 55s with no will have never even thought about writing one.

The survey also showed that co-habiting couples were less likely to have a will, with 77 per cent not having written one compared to a figure of 46 per cent for those who are married or in a civil partnership. Single adults (45 per cent) and co-habiting couples (32 per cent) are the least likely to have thought about writing a will compared to those who are married or in a civil partnership (22 per cent) and those who have separated or divorced (21 per cent).

And it emerged from the findings that adults with children feel more pressure to write a will, with 48 per cent saying they have not written a will but want to write one in the future. Three in five adukts with children under 18 (58 per cent) also haven’t chosen guardians for their children in the event of their passing.

Royal London's Mona Patel said that although writing a will may seem daunting it shouldn't become "just another chore on the to-do list".  She added: "It’s especially important for cohabitating couples to have a will, as the surviving partner does not automatically inherit any estate or possessions left behind. By having a will in place, your loved ones will be able to easily locate all your assets and carry out your wishes when you have gone. It’s also vital to take stock when you reach a milestone such as getting married or starting a family as these events can complicate your financial affairs further.”

Carl Eldridge is a journalist with more than 25 years’ experience working on local and then national newspapers, including a spell on the City Desk at the Daily Express, before switching from print media to the internet.

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