Almost five years after Aretha Franklin’s death in 2018, a court in Michigan has finally assessed the validity of the multiple wills that she left behind. The Washington Post reported that two versions were in dispute, one created in 2010 and another in 2014. Both were handwritten and similar in the sense that the Queen of Soul distributed music and copyright income from her estate to her four sons. However, the differences between the two wills led to a dispute between the two sons, with competing claims that the 2010 or 2014 document was valid.
After deliberating, the jury found that the 2014 will would be allowed to stand. The court will move forward with the probate process by appointing an executor, who will carry out the will’s instructions and make distributions to beneficiaries. Still, the situation with Ms. Franklin’s estate is preventable. There are ways to change or update your will so that there is no question about which document is current and valid. Trust a wills and estate planning attorney lawyer to help you navigate the steps, but you can read on for important points.
Destroy the Old
Disputes are avoidable when you destroy the version of a will that does not express your intentions. You can shred, burn, tear apart, or otherwise make the document unusable, and your actions are sufficient evidence that you meant to invalidate the will. Note that crossing out provisions or tearing out pages will not be adequate to prove that you wanted to destroy the entire will.
Create a Codicil
Whether you destroy your will entirely or want to make adjustments, the tool for doing so is called a will codicil. The document is an amendment permitting you to:
- Change distributions to beneficiaries;
- Add specific bequests of designated assets;
- Include a testamentary trust;
- Eliminate beneficiaries; or,
- Change who you name as executor.
A codicil must comply with the same formalities as the will, which usually means you need witnesses and a notary public.
After you create a will or execute codicils, it is important to think about where to store the documents for security – and to ensure that they will be found. A safe, fireproof box, or locked drawer may be options, and many people trust their attorney for safekeeping of estate planning paperwork. Avoid a safe deposit box, where you usually need to present the will to bank officials to access the contents.
Check Other Estate Planning Documents
If you do destroy your will or create a codicil, it is crucial that you also review how the changes will affect other components of your estate plan. For those who have created a revocable living trust, you may need to make adjustments.
Consult With an Estate Planning Attorney About Updating Your Will To learn more about your options if you seek to change or update your will, please contact Francois Williams Legal LLC. We can set up a consultation to review your circumstances and determine the best strategy for your goals.