A recent court hearing involving the estate of Aretha Franklin, the famous vocalist known as the Queen of Soul for her hit songs like "Respect," showed that the battle over her fortune is far from over.
The most recent court hearing suggested that a lot more than the estimated $50 million thought to be at stake may in fact factor in to the estate's overall value. This is because many of her songs, as well as her image and likeness, are still valuable commodities.
In fact, several entertainment companies have approached the estate about licensing deals that could in the final analysis be worth millions. Her enduring popularity could also mean that the estate continues to increase in value as the years go by.
Until recently, the thought was that Ms. Franklin had left no will at all. However, several wills in her handwriting and found within her house have emerged. The judge overseeing this case has yet to rule on the validity of the wills, but some predict that if any of them is valid, it will be the most recent one, dating from 2014.
Right now, there is still some dispute over who should serve as executor of the estate. While a cousin is currently filling the role, according to one attorney involved in the case, Ms. Franklin's wills explicitly stated that her youngest son should serve in this capacity.
However, there also seemed to be some optimism that the probate litigation would ultimately settle outside of the courthouse. Much of the recent court hearing was actually devoted to what sources referred to as a nonbinding facilitation process.
While not everyone in New Jersey has a multi-million dollar estate, the stakes are often high in probate disputes closer to home as well. Particularly when a loved one did not have a will or, as in Ms. Franklin's case, did not have a formal estate plan, disputes are all too common. When they happen, it may be important for family members to seek the advice of an experienced attorney.