When legendary singer Aretha Franklin died, she did not have a will or trust. Franklin died last week from advanced pancreatic cancer. She was 76.

In documents filed with the Oakland County probate court, Ms. Franklin’s sons — Clarence, Edward and KeCalf Franklin, and Ted White Jr. — listed themselves as “interested parties.” One document, signed by KeCalf Franklin, checked a box indicating that “the decedent died intestate,” or without a will. The sons also nominated Sabrina Owens, a niece of Ms. Franklin, to be the estate’s personal representative, a role similar to that of an executor.

According to Michigan law, the assets of an unmarried person who dies without a will are divided equally among their children. Ms. Franklin had been married twice, but was long since divorced. Though wills are public records in Michigan once a person has died, the document itself often does not contain the kind of financial details that may become public as an accounting of her estate proceeds.

Franklin's lawyer has represented her in entertainment matters for nearly three decades, and told the paper that he constantly asked her to do a trust, but she never got around to it."I was after her for a number of years to do a trust," Los Angeles attorney Don Wilson told the paper. "It would have expedited things and kept them out of probate and kept things private.

Amanda DiChello, an estate lawyer at the firm of Cozen O’Connor in Philadelphia, said that a surprising number of celebrities and wealthy people die without a will. “It’s easier not to address it, and it’s always the worst result,” Ms. DiChello said. “Then it costs oodles and oodles of money to handle the mess after the fact.”

In her career, Ms. Franklin — known as the Queen of Soul — won 18 Grammy Awards and had more than 100 singles on the Billboard charts. She also sang at the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2009, and at concerts for Jimmy Carter in 1977 and Bill Clinton in 1993.

Franklin's funeral will be held on August 31 in Detroit, with the service for family and friends planned for 10 a.m. ET the same day. Public viewings will be held August 28 and 29 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.Franklin will be entombed at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit.


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