Many people will be surprised to learn that, according to recent media articles, the late Aretha Franklin died without having a Will.

Now some of you may say ‘so what?’, but when you own property or assets, or even perhaps have some money saved in the bank, this actually is a big deal.

We all aspire to leaving behind a legacy for our children or family members when we die; however, if you die without a will then all the hard-work and sacrifice during your life time could be for nothing.

Let us take Aretha Franklin’s case as an example – she had amassed somewhere in the region of $80 million in assets and leaves behind her four children; one of whom has special needs who will require financial, medical and supportive care and attention for the remainder of his life. How is this going to be paid for in the future?

When you die and you don’t have a Will in place, the ‘legal eagles’ amongst us would say you have died ‘intestate’. This means that the laws of the country where you were living determines how your wealth, (i.e. all of your property, assets, money etc.) is divided up and used after your death. This can get very complicated if you own property in multiple jurisdictions, as each property owned would be dealt with according to the laws of the country in which each property is physically located.

In Aretha Franklin’s case, the courts and lawyers in the USA will step in to handle everything. They will arrange to pay off any outstanding debts and will figure out how to distribute whatever is left to the family but it could take many years before the family actually gets anything that is due to them.

The bigger your estate and family the more complicated it is likely to be, with a greater chance of disputes arising. In fact, it is not unheard of for court and legal fees to end up eating into the majority of any money that is left behind. More importantly of course, the biggest heartache is that the family members have to go through this entire legal headache and often end up having to go to court, which is the last thing they want to be doing when grieving for a loved one.

Surprisingly, when it comes to well-known people who died without a Will, Aretha Franklin is not alone. Names include Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln and Prince.

Now I am sure that all of these individuals would have been advised over and over again by their lawyers to have their wishes written down, in order that their estate be distributed and more importantly, any problems handled in a way that they would want them to be.

We often hear people say: ‘I don’t want my daughter-in-law to get my money if they divorce’; ‘my son has a drug problem – I don’t want him having access to all the cash at once’; ‘my child has a medical condition – I want to make sure there is money there to pay for their care’. These are just a few examples of the types of things that a Will can address.

To do so means spending a little bit of money on getting a will drawn up and putting some form of estate planning in place, such as a trust or foundation. However, not only will you save your family a fortune in legal fees, it will offer them comfort in the knowledge that they are following your instructions on how you wished things to be handled and ‘who gets what’ upon your death, with no room for arguments.

Now we don’t expect you to make any decisions straight away as we understand the importance behind the decisions that need to be made in such circumstances. However, if you would like to talk about the options available to you and your family, or if you want to better understand the process and how much it could cost, please get in touch with us for a no obligation chat on +44 1624 616544 or email info@sentientinternational.com.

Written by Samantha Snow, Head of Business Development

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