After Aretha Franklin’s family paid their final respects to the legendary singer on Friday, attention turned to the unpleasant job of dividing her fortune. It’s unclear how she would have wanted her estate settled because the Queen of Soul died without a will, leaving that decision to state law.
Franklin, 76, died Aug. 16 of pancreatic cancer. She’s survived by four sons and other descendants who must figure out how many millions she was worth. Her wealth included royalties from hit songs, as well as property.
“I tried to convince her that she should do not just a will but a trust while she was still alive. She never told me, ‘No, I don’t want to do one.’ She understood the need. It just didn’t seem to be something she got around to,” Don Wilson, Franklin’s longtime lawyer, told the Associated Press.
Franklin’s four sons will equally divide their mother’s assets under Michigan law. Her son’s range in age 48 to 63. The eldest, Ted White Jr. Clarence, is represented by a guardian because he’s incapacitated. One of Franklin’s nieces agreed to serve as executor.
It’s estimated that the singer’s wealth is in the tens of millions. Franklin had ownership of the songs she wrote. Among her top hits, “Think” is the only one that she composed. The lion’s share of royalties for the smash hit “Respect” has gone to the songwriter, the estate of soul singer Otis Redding. She also owned several properties in the Detroit area with an estimated market value of about $4 million, according to the AP.
Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service is keeping a careful eye on things. The IRS will collect any back taxes Franklin owed and tax her estate 40 percent for assets exceeding $11.2 million.
An old friend, businessman Ron Moten, offered advice to Franklin’s sons in his speech at Friday’s funeral.
“Remember your family, and friends that have been with you for years because you are about to meet a lot of people who will now want to be your new best friend. You will also meet some people that will have the best investments in the world for you,” he said. “My advice? Go slow, be careful and be smart.”