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The 'Queen of Soul' reportedly died with no estate plan

Most people would assume that someone as wealthy and successful as Aretha Franklin would have had a detailed estate plan in place when she passed away recently. However, the "Queen of Soul" reportedly died without even a will — let alone any other documents detailing how she wanted her assets divided among her family and others.

The same happened with another music icon — Prince — when he died two years ago. Reportedly, his estate has still not been settled.

As one San Diego estate planning attorney notes, Franklin's lack of an estate plan means "the court will ultimately decide who receives [her] property, in a process that is expensive, time-consuming and public." Requiring your loved ones to deal with your estate in court — even out of the public eye — can put them in conflict with one another and only add to their pain and grief. Unfortunately, fewer than half of those living in the United States have an estate plan.

Many people don't think that they have an "estate" that requires a plan. However, state law sees it differently. In California, an estate is required to go through probate if the deceased owned over $50,000 in real estate or had total assets and property totaling over $150,000. If you never detailed your wishes, the court will make decisions about your estate based on state law.

Detailing how you want your assets and property disbursed after you're gone is just one aspect of estate planning. You can and should use your estate plan to designate people to have power of attorney to make financial and health care decisions and the authority to see that your wishes are carried out as you've designated. This may be necessary even while you're still alive if you become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself.

While it's natural to resist having to think about what will happen after we're gone, by taking the time to do so while you're alive and reasonably well, you can save your loved ones money, time and stress. An experienced California estate planning attorney can help you craft a plan that is appropriate for you, your loved ones and the legacy you want to leave behind.

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