Recent news reports indicate that the estate of Aretha Franklin is moving forward without a hitch, but the question remains whether the decedent had a will. Aretha, who died on Aug. 16, 2018 was a resident of another state at the time of death so that the estate administration will not take place in California. The estate was apparently filed on Aug. 20 by her niece who requested appointment as the personal representative.
A will was not presented with the estate filing but the applicable box was not checked to indicate that there was no will. It is possible that a search for the will is ongoing. The estate is estimated to be worth about $80 million. Reports circulated on Aug. 15 that the family had met to discuss probate of the estate. Usually, such matters would be initiated after the funeral, but Aretha had four sons who felt it necessary to meet within hours before her death.
The meeting appears to have brought desirable results because the singer's long-time attorney wrote to the niece on Aug. 17 that Aretha's four sons had agreed to her appointment as the estate's personal representative. The letter included each son's renunciation of the right to serve in favor of the decedent's niece. The niece is a labor relations executive at the University of Michigan. The estate papers were filed in the Oakland County Probate Court in Michigan.
In his letter to the personal representative, the attorney mentioned that the issues already discussed were Franklin's outstanding debts, income tax filings, estate administration expenses, the marshaling of assets and distribution of the remaining estate assets. Those are generally the main highlights of the probate process here in California also. The estate should be settled within one year, and if not, the probate court will review the matter and the personal representative must file papers explaining the delay.