Avoid the Aretha Franklin method of writing wills!


Occasionally, when I’m in need of a pound for the kids’ ‘Non-Uniform Day’ or realise there’s only 3 forks left in the drawer, I’ll take a look down the back of the sofa.

Not once have I found a hand-written will. But this is what happened when Aretha Franklin died in 2018. Two of her sons duly enquired as to whether the the will, dated 2014 and written on a spiral notebook was valid. Did it replace the previous 2010 will, which was found in a cabinet in the singer’s home?

A six-person jury at the Oakland County Probate Court, after hearing from witnesses, decided that the ‘sofa will’ should stand. Interestingly it was also disclosed that there was evidence that Franklin was planning to write yet another will before she died.

People often update wills; indeed given the frequent changes in people’s lives – children, grandchildren, increases in wealth, death of beneficiaries, house moves, marriages, etc – we encourage you to review your will every 3-5 years or when a significant event has occurred. Changes can be made wholesale or minor amendments can be made through a codicil.

We also encourage you to get your will drafted by a person with the requisite expertise who can advise you about the prevention of claims, take the necessary steps to rebut any claims in the future and advise you about all the options available to you.

The Aretha Franklin case took five years of litigation and was eye-wateringly costly. Her $80 million estate was valued at just $6 million after costs, taxes and a reduced valuation. “Think about it… think about it!” as the Queen of Soul herself sang, and avoid her expensive mistake.

16 August 2023

Further reading:

Are wills worth the paper they’re written on?


Sorry to mention this… but but when you die, is your business prepared?


To Trust or Not to Trust?


Government guidance:

Making a will: Overview – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

For more information about Wills, Trusts and Probate, please contact Jenny Barron at 01756 692866 or email jenny.barron@awbclaw.co.uk.