It’s tempting to look at the lives of rich and famous celebrities and assume they have it all together—yet even superstars can be guilty of significant legal or financial oversights.

The sad passing of Aretha Franklin brings this point into sharp relief: Reports indicate that the seminal vocalist died without having a will in place, to say nothing of more advanced estate planning documents.

This isn’t a minor lapse: The lack of a will means her assets will likely be tied up in court, creating a lot of stress and tension for her survivors. It may even mean the value of her estate dwindles.

Here at Stonepath Wealth Management, we are not attorneys, but we do believe in the value of estate planning; we’ve worked with a number of estate planning lawyers and can happily put you in touch with one, ensuring your estate doesn’t end up in limbo like Franklin’s.

The Basics of Estate Planning

You might wonder if you even need estate planning, particularly if you don’t consider yourself to be affluent; a will may be necessary for someone like Aretha Franklin, but is it really necessary for you?

The short answer is yes, and for a few reasons. Without a will to lay out the distribution of your assets, your estate will almost surely enter probate and/or attract a number of legal challenges—meaning a lot of stress and frustration for your loved ones. This is true whether you leave behind millions of dollars of just a tiny fraction of that.

Through estate planning, you can also leave the means to have your debts paid off and even your funeral expenses taken care of—an important way to minimize the burdens you leave for your family and loved ones.

And one final point worth making: Estate planning isn’t just about who gets what. It’s also the only way to make your wishes known about who will become guardian for your minor children should you die; and, it allows you to express your wishes about who should make medical or financial decisions for you should you become incapacitated.

Without estate planning, meanwhile, all of this is left up to the courts—and your property will be distributed through a process called intestate succession, wherein all your assets will be revealed publicly, and the division of those assets will be left up to the probate system. The results may or may not align with your wishes, and they certainly won’t be arrived at quickly or easily.

The simple way to avoid these unfortunate lapses—and to smooth things out for your beneficiaries—is to start the estate planning process sooner rather than later. Again, we are pleased to put you in contact with estate planning attorneys who specialize in these matters; contact Stonepath Wealth Management for more.