Aretha Franklin died without a will, according to legal documents filed in a Michigan court following the Queen of Soul’s death at the age of 76.
The Detroit Free Press reports that Franklin’s four sons filed a document in the Oakland County Probate Court listing themselves as interested parties in the singer’s estate. The document acknowledged that Franklin died without a formal will; under Michigan law, her estate will be divided equally among her four descendants.
“The decedent [Franklin] died intestate and after exercising reasonable diligence, I am unaware of any unrevoked testamentary instrument relating to property located in this state as defined,” the document stated.
“I was after her for a number of years to do a trust,” Don Wilson, Franklin’s attorney on entertainment matters for nearly 30 years, told the Free Press. “It would have expedited things and kept them out of probate, and kept things private.”
Because there is no will, the value of Franklin’s estate – estimated to worth $80 million, People reported – will become public, and could result in a lengthy legal battle involving extended family members; Franklin’s niece, Sabrina Owens, already requested that she be appointed representative of the estate.
Wilson cited the Ike Turner estate as an example of the fallout of an artist dying without a will: Nearly 11 years after that musician’s death, his estate is still in litigation among family members.
More recently, Prince’s extended family squabbled over his estate before a court named his sister and five half-siblings as heirs. Despite the court’s ruling, the Washington Post reported in April that the state of Prince’s estate was “a mess,” noting that one of the half-siblings hadn’t even spoken to Prince in over 15 years.