Aretha Franklin had a homegoing fit for a queen. 100 pink Cadillacs lined the road in front of the church. In the week leading up to the funeral she wore multiple outfits, leading Former President Bill Clinton to joke during the funeral that he was happy that her casket was still open when he arrived because he just had to see what she was wearing. And A-list performers brought down the house, singing their versions of her many chart-topping hits.
After having such an elaborate end-of-life celebration that appeared to be meticulously planned, it was surprising to learn that the Queen of Soul died without an estate plan. Her $80 million estate will be divided up according to the rules of intestacy, in full public view.
Franklin’s decision not to make even a simple will can be difficult to reconcile with her reputation for being very business-savvy and her preference for keeping details about her personal life private since her estate will owe a lot of taxes and have any disputes play out in the public eye. But it makes more sense when you put yourself in her shoes. How many of us have delayed unpleasant tasks because we thought we had more time? How many of us are prepared to confront our own mortality?
This is the best explanation for why Franklin died without an estate plan because she was advised to make one, and she knew she was terminally ill. According to the AP, “At least one of the singer’s attorneys says he urged her repeatedly over the years to draft one. ‘I tried to convince her that she should do not just a will but a trust while she was still alive,’ says Don Wilson, a Los Angeles lawyer who worked on entertainment matters for Franklin for nearly 30 years. ‘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.’”
Don’t let estate planning be something you never seem to get around to. Even those of us without $80 million to pass on to our loved ones would do better to make a plan and make things easier on those we leave behind.