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Aretha Franklin's death reminds us all to draft a will

The singer, Aretha Franklin, did not leave a will behind as a guide to distribute her estate assets. The singer's $80 million estate, which will probably be divided among her four sons will need to be probated according to intestate laws of her home state of Michigan. Her four sons have already filed the appropriate legal paperwork to lay claim to their late mother's estate.

Here's how the distribution of an estate happens when an individual passes away without a last will and testament:

Intestate laws govern the distribution

Every state has intestate laws that govern the fair distribution of a decedent's estate when someone dies without a will, which is also referred to as "dying intestate." The probate court will supervise and make various decisions for the division, liquidation and/or distribution of various assets in accordance with the law.

However, these rules could be subject to different interpretations. When numerous potential heirs and beneficiaries step forward following someone dying intestate, it could result in legal battles and lengthy court proceedings if different potential heirs try to pursue as much money as possible.

The state decides who will serve as guardian of minor children

When parents die without a will, their minor children will be parentless and there will not be a formal record of who shall serve as their guardian. As such, the matter will be left up to the state to determine who shall care for the children. These situations can also result in various family disagreements.

Hopefully, in the case of Aretha Franklin's estate, and for the sake of her children, the probate process will be peaceful and free of conflict. However, if she had created a trust and/or will, her family would have a much easier time with the process of dividing and distributing Franklin's assets. If you have yet to finalize your estate plan, don't hesitate to begin immediately before you run out of time.

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