Skip to content

Aretha Franklin at the White House

Aretha Franklin did not create a Will before she died, court documents revealed. After years of declining health, Franklin died at the age of 76. She was attended by friends and family at her home in Detroit, Michigan.

Known by fans as the Queen of Soul, she won 18 Grammy Awards and sold over 75 million records around the world. Hit singles like “Respect” and “I Say a Little Prayer” made her a household name.

One of the greatest voices of all time, she had a huge impact on the musicians that came after her. Her vast wealth is believed to be around $80 million (£62 million). Dying intestate – without a Will – means there will be ongoing issues with her estate and its distribution.

Franklin is survived by her four sons, who filed a document listing themselves as interested parties in their mother’s estate. Under Michigan state law, her estate will be divided equally among her children. Without a Will to make her wishes known, there could still be legal challenges from extended family.

The singer’s niece, Sabrina Owens, asked the court to appoint her as a personal representative of the estate. Family can fight over estates, particularly when they include complex assets, like music rights. Writing credits on hits like “Think” can be expected to produce substantial income for years to come.

It is surprising that Aretha Franklin did not create a Will, as she was ill for several years. Don Wilson, Franklin’s attorney in record publishing and deals, told reporters that he “was after her for a number of years to do a Trust”. Trusts help to ensure that money is secure, and is received by those it is intended for.

Having worked with Aretha Franklin for almost 30 years, Wilson worried that – without a Trust or Will in place – what she left behind will be heavily contested. He says “there always ends up being a fight” over superstars’ estates. This is true of Prince’s estate, and proved costly to his six heirs. With no partner or children, Prince died intestate, and his estate was fraught with legal battles after his sudden death.

Aretha Franklin’s death should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who does not have an up-to-date Will in place. She will be remembered not only as an entertainer, but also for her work in support of the Civil Rights movement in the US.

If you need expert advice on how to create your Will, contact us today. Call Severn Estate Planning on 01743 387990. Or, email us at to talk with one of our advisors.