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Estate planning lessons learned from Aretha Franklin's estate

Once the dust settles and the family begins to accept the fact that their loved one  has died, the next step often is to begin the process of settling the estate. Hopefully, the Colorado resident left a will and other relevant estate planning documents in a readily accessable location. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and the family must begin and extensive search for the important documents.

For approximately nine months, Aretha Franklin's family believed that she had passed away without leaving a will. Family members then discovered three handwritten wills in her home. Two of the wills were discovered in a locked closet and the third was apparently hidden among sofa cushions.  Questions are now arising as to the validity of these wills and how they will be treated in the probate process.

This particular situation raises a number of concerns related to estate planning and wills. Will a hand-writen will be accepted?  Which version of the three wills will be honored?  Were they duly signed, dated and witnessed?  Was there any undue influence involved?

These issues are often the subject of litigation, which is why you should work with an estate planning attorney rather than attempt to get by with a handwritten will. In Aretha Franklin's case, it is almost certain that the probate process will be lengthy and costlier due to the lack of formal estate planning.

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