Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin died without a will at 76 years of age. The fate of her $80 million fortune will be up to the vagaries of the justice system.
Damn. Just damn.
Anyone with experience in civil court knows the odds of determining her wishes there are nil. The outcome will be random. May as well flip a coin.
How many lawyers and financial advisors grew wealthy from advising her? Did none of them inform her of the consequences of dying intestate? Could none of them persuade her to think through her wishes and sign a last will and testament? (Don Wilson, Aretha’s copyright lawyer for nearly 30 years, said he tried.)
Did she think a judge would manage her legacy better than the family and friends who’d served her for decades? Did she think the state of Michigan could put the fruits of her labor to better use than the Detroit nonprofits to whom she could’ve left those taxes?
Or did she simply care so little about the four sons and other interested parties who would inevitably do battle over her fortune? Did she want to watch a human dogfight from the other side of the veil?
Seriously, how much effort would it have taken for Aretha Franklin to tell somebody — anybody — what should be done with her wealth when she could no longer tend to it?
I honestly don’t know.
It’s not a choice I would make in her shoes. I don’t have $80 million, yet I have a will. I don’t want anyone fighting over my rock collection and 35 cents.
I hope it’s not a choice you would make, either. Probate court is one of the worst things you could wish on a loved one when you’re gone. Besides, wills are not just for rich people. You can write one yourself for as little as $20.
But here’s the thing — I don’t need to agree with or understand Aretha Franklin’s choice to respect it. Not my wealth. Not my choice.
Aretha Franklin was always her own woman. Look up “self-contained” in the dictionary and you’ll see her picture. She didn’t need anyone’s advice or opinion until she asked for it. And she let you know when she hadn’t asked for it.
She also always let us know, ever in the most regal way, when she’d received our love and appreciation.
Some pictures say it all. pic.twitter.com/abFKT7gsQM
— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) August 21, 2018
So we have to be okay with Queen Ree. She did what she did. Leave her be.
And while I’m sorry to see her family gearing up for battle at a time meant for leaning on one another, all we can do is pray for a quick and just resolution.
Actually, that’s not all we can do. When we think about Aretha Franklin, we can focus our energies on celebrating the extraordinary blessing that made her the Queen of Soul.
And we can let her rest in peace.