Some Texas fans of singer Aretha Franklin may be aware that her family has been fighting over her estate. Franklin had four sons, but her niece has been acting as executor.
It was initially believed that Franklin had died without a will. However, her niece reportedly found three handwritten wills in the home in May. One was created in 2014 and the other two in 2010. They have been filed in a probate court where a judge will determine whether they are legal. One of Franklin's sons says he was named as executor in the 2014 will, and one brother is supporting him in this claim. Reportedly, the names of another brother and the niece were crossed out although it is unclear who did this.
The son who says he was named executor has also filed a temporary restraining order so that the niece cannot do anything more until the executor has been decided. The son says the niece is selling Franklin's belongings and spending money. Another son has filed for the right to be co-executor alongside the niece. In August, a judge will decide whether a handwriting expert should examine the wills to determine authenticity.
As this situation demonstrates, a family can face many challenges if a loved one dies without an estate plan. Even with a comprehensive estate plan in place, an executor's duties can feel overwhelming. They include locating assets, paying creditors, notifying beneficiaries, paying taxes and passing assets to beneficiaries. In some cases, even if there is a will, there could be challenges from family members, which could add an additional complication to the job of an executor. Executors are permitted to hire attorneys and other professionals to assist with estate administration and probate if necessary, and attorneys can be paid from the estate.