Aretha Franklin left no will behind, report says

It could be years before estate is settled

DETROIT – When singer Aretha Franklin died, she did not have a will or trust, according to reports.

Reports have estimated her net worth to be as high as $80 million when she died, leaving behind a vast fortune -- but no will. Meaning, it could be years before her estate gets settled.

The legal term for dying without a will is called intestate. A couple years ago the famed musician Prince died intestate and they're still fighting over that more than two years later -- and his family hasn't seen a dime.

Aretha Louise Franklin's estate paperwork hit the courthouse Tuesday and in very tiny print at the corner of page three it spells out clearly she died intestate, without a will.

She has four children. Kecalf Franklin, who filed the paperwork, Theodore Richard White II, Edward Franklin and Clarence Franklin are listed as heirs.

Under Michigan law, they should split the multimillion dollar estate. However, because Aretha Franklin didn't have any real planning for this situation they might end up missing out on a lot of her fortune if creditors and or lawyers making claims get involved.

A will is a simple document you sign that tells the court your wishes on how to distribute whatever assets you have, such as a car, a house or a 401K plan at death.

A trust is a more formal legal document that tells the probate judge how to distribute your assets and to whom and if it is a proper, legal trust your wishes are carried out usually by a third party trustee. This process is private.

It's recommended you do both in many cases. Most Americans with wealth, particularly those with sizable fortunes, choose to do both a will and a trust. The trust allows for creative tax planning because the estate faces not only income taxes but also estate taxes that can reach 50% or more.

Sabrina Garrett Owens has been named the personal representative for Aretha's children. Garrett Owens works at the University of Michigan in human resources.

She is the person entrusted with shepherding Aretha Franklin's estate through probate.