According to the court documents, legendary singer Aretha Franklin did not have a will or trust when she died, despite reportedly having a son, Clarence, with special needs. The lack of an estate plan opens up the intensely private singer’s estate to public scrutiny and unnecessary costs, and means that there are no specific provisions to protect Clarence.
When someone dies without a will – called dying “intestate” — the estate goes through probate and is divided according to state law. Although it is often hard to know where to begin, a trusted estate planner could have helped the Queen of Soul create a trust that would have avoided probate. But perhaps more importantly, that estate plan could established a special needs trust to ensure that Clarence would receive proper care for the rest of his life and preserve any public benefits he may be receiving.
Estate planning is important even if you don’t have Aretha Franklin’s assets, and it’s doubly crucial if you have a child with special needs as she did. It allows you, while you are still living, to ensure that your property will go to the people you want, in the way you want, and to create special protections for your child with special needs before it’s too late. If you don’t want your plan for your loved ones to simply be “I Say a Little Prayer” contact your special needs attorney to begin working on your estate plan now. Its not as hard as you think and you will feel better when its done.