Aretha Franklin's passing shows importance of estate planning

It seems like we were just talking about the passing of pop icon Prince. This music legend left behind millions in assets, some of which were very hard to value, spurring a contentious fight as his estate passed through probate court.

Now the estate of another music icon is in the same state. The recent passing of singer Aretha Franklin has left her estate in limbo despite the fact that she has four adult children, including one who has special needs. Franklin's attorney says that he tried to prompt her to engage in estate planning, but she simply didn't follow through. Now the singer's estimated $80 million estate may be hotly contested amongst family members, and more than a quarter of it may have to be paid in estate taxes.

Sadly, many individuals fail to create an estate plan. A recent study found that only 40 percent of Americans have some sort of will or living trust. More than 40 percent of baby boomers lack a will or trust, and more than 60 percent of those in Generation X fall into that same category. Most of these individuals simply procrastinate creating an estate plan, which, as Aretha Franklin and Prince's cases illustrate, may leave one's estate in jeopardy.

While these singers probably have far more assets than most individuals, the benefits of estate planning are the same. When done correctly, estate planning can help ensure that assets are passed down to loved ones in a way that is desired by the individual who created the estate plan. The entire process can be customized, too, meaning that individuals can ensure that their assets are handled exactly like they want upon their death. But estate planning isn't something that occurs on a whim. Instead, it needs to be carefully thought out and revisited to ensure that it is up-to-date, accurate and in-line with one's wishes. Experienced estate planning attorneys stand ready to help these individuals so that they don't end up in a similar situation as Aretha Franklin's family.

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