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Handwritten wills create problems for Aretha Franklin's estate

When the legendary singer Aretha Franklin died, she left behind no will to control her estate -- or so everyone thought.

Now, three handwritten wills by the late singer have surfaced in her Detroit home -- including one found tucked under the couch cushions in her living room. The most recent of the three is dated March 2014 and is difficult to read, with notes in the margins and items scratched out. Two other wills, both from 2010, were found in a locked cabinet. Her longtime attorney has stated in court that he's not sure if the wills are actually legal under Michigan law.

They are, however, enough to produce a major headache for everyone involved.

Initially, the singer's sons had agreed to put the estate in the hands of an administrator -- which, given the potential value of her work, was probably a good idea. Now, however, the most recent will seems to indicate that the singer wanted one son in charge. That son, Christian rap singer Kecalf Franklin, would now like a bigger say in his mother's estate.

The singer's other son, however, opposes the change. Through his attorney, he said that his brother is "totally unsuitable" for the task and has asked the court to leave things as they are. The judge in the case has stated that she will first address the admissibility of the wills before addressing any other issues.

The only thing that's probably worse than leaving behind a complicated estate with no will to guide how it should be handled and who should benefit is leaving behind conflicting information and multiple wills. That can make it much harder for the probate court to decide what the deceased really intended.

If you want to ensure that your wishes are followed during the probate process, it's wise to get an attorney involved and get your plans in writing. That way, you know that family members won't have much to argue about after you are gone.

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