By Lesa Macpherson

Aretha Franklin has joined a long list of famous people who have died without a will.  These include Bob Marley, Sony Bono, and Prince.

It is remarkable and sad that such a beloved person may not see her wishes fulfilled in passing her estate as she would have intended.

However the recent news of three “new” handwritten hidden wills appearing adds a new twist to this sorry tale.  Three wills have been found hidden in her home, including one under the cushions of the Sofa.

Now the process, which could have been simplified by a basic will, shall become very costly, very lengthy, and no longer private.

Interesting details have arisen which will involve close scrutiny, including:

  1. Are the handwritten wills dated? Which is the latest?
  2. Does the handwriting match Aretha’s? Is there any fraud or forgery involved?
  3. Is there reason to believe the wills may be affected by illness?
  4. Could they have been merely sketchy notes prepared for the process of making a future will?
  5. How are barely decipherable and scratched out notes over the script to be interpreted?

At the time of her death her family, and lawyers, said she had no will.

The hearing, which commences on June 12 in Michigan, is only the beginning of a long and complicated process.

The courts dealing with Wills and Estate matters, whether in the US, UK or Australia, often have to deal with handwritten wills, incomplete wills, notes on wills, unsigned or unwitnessed wills, and any combination of these issues. The challenge always for the court is to decide whether a document is intended to be the last will, whether it is in fact the last in time, and what sometimes confusing language is actually intended to mean.

You can avoid the complications of dying intestate (without a will) or a partial intestacy (an incomplete or confusing will) by getting proper legal assistance from an experienced Wills and Estate expert.  Brisbane Elder Law have over 30 years experience in Wills, and Will Disputes.  For expert advice contact us on 1800961622 or visit

For a practical example we have dealt with see our Blog on “The case of the Missing Comma”.

Also see our Blog on “Why Everyone Needs  a Will.