Queen of Soul left handwritten Wills behind for massive estate

Date: Dec 29, 2019

Aretha Franklin was known worldwide as the Queen of Soul, and she left a musical legacy that is unparalleled. However, she may not have taken as much care with the administration of her massive estate: Three handwritten Wills were found at her home in Detroit, Michigan over the summer, potentially leaving her sizeable financial legacy in peril.

Background of the situation

Franklin’s combined 16-page Will features scratched-out sentences, notes in the margins and digressions. Sources say that the documents were not notarised, nor were they signed with any witnesses present. They also include different dates – one from 2014, and two from 2010.

Given that Franklin passed years after the most recent version of the papers were written, it is possible that she amassed more assets in recent years.

According to Michigan state law, the documents would have to be studied and circumstances in which they were written would be considered before determining if this would count as Franklin’s Will.

Would this work in Australia?

If an individual were to pass in Australia and a handwritten Will was found after the fact, would this Will be valid? In short, a Will can be handwritten, but it must be signed and dated, and it must also be signed by two witnesses (including the creator) in each other’s presence.

There are also a number of other details that may apply, based on your state. For instance, in New South Wales, each person who signs should use the same pen, as evidence that they were together when the Will was signed. They should also take special care not to sign copies of the original document, or else those may become valid Wills (i.e. including any notes).

Individuals should also update their plans after major life events and if large assets are acquired, to ensure they’re accounted for within their latest Wills. It’s smart to review Wills every few years due to the changing nature of relationships.

If beneficiaries are concerned about the validity of a loved one’s Will, as Franklin’s may be, due to the crossed out phrases and notes present in the documents, they have legal recourse in Australia. They can challenge the Will (or executor) in court, if they have a vested interest, and have the plans reviewed.

If you need to seek legal counsel to look into your options when it comes to contesting or challenging a Will, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Gerard Malouf and Partners Compensation, Medical Negligence & Will Dispute Lawyers for your free consultation today.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.