RALEIGH, N.C. — After a five-year legal battle between Aretha Franklin’s sons over the wills she left behind, the dust has finally settled with a jury deciding in favor of a 2014 handwritten document.
But celebrities are not the only ones whose deaths can spawn disputes over legacies.
Financial professional Alan Porter says people can learn from mistakes made by the stars.
“There’s a common misconception that estate planning is just for the rich and old. Anyone with minor children should have a will and an estate plan. It allows parents the opportunity to choose their children's legal guardian if they were to pass away,” Porter said.
Even younger generations should have a will, Porter says.
“If you do not appoint a guardian for your kids, a judge will choose someone for you. Even those without kids should make sure to have a will to save their friends and family time, money and heartache down the road,” Porter said.
Porter says there are three things we can learn from Franklin’s case, in which a handwritten will found under a couch cushion in her home was deemed valid after five years of legal battles.
- A proper, written will could have saved the family years of legal fees
- Do-it-yourself wills can be created easily online and have become a popular option, but be warned that these quick-fix wills can suffer from oversights
- Common mistakes people make with DIY wills include missing required signatures and not listing all their assets
Porter says it’s important to sit down with a financial professional and an estate planning attorney to make sure you and your family are covered and all assets are accounted for.
“When you create an estate plan, make sure to consider the tax liabilities. You want any inheritance you leave to your family to be a gift, rather than a tax burden,” Porter said.
Consider using tax-efficient tools, like cash-value life insurance, to fund a trust, Porter says. This will help you avoid fees from probate and protect your family from unnecessary taxes.