When Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin died Thursday at the age of 76 of advanced pancreatic cancer, she not only left behind a treasure trove of songs that couched the civil rights movement, but a net worth of $80 million, People is reporting.
Franklin was the mother of four sons. People based its report on celebritynetworth.com.
Two lawyers familiar with such situations say the distribution of assets of a deceased celebrity is not a simple task.
“I would expect that she has a house, probably a financial account of some kinda brokerage account, stocks, bonds, cash, Michigan lawyer Kenneth Silver told celebrity magazine. “She probably had investments of a wide variety—perhaps in real estate ventures, other businesses that she may own or have an interest in.”
He added that Franklin may have “copyrights to her songs, perhaps publishing rights to her material, perhaps the material of other artists. And I’m sure she has probably a pretty valuable collection of personal property, things like Grammys, gold records, memorabilia from Motown years and onward.”
Shaheen Imami, a shareholder at Prince Law Firm in Michigan, told People that an estate plan typically dictates next steps.
“If she had an estate plan, you’ll first look to the estate plan,” Imami told the news outlet. “If she did have a plan, it would consist of a will and a trust. And then they divvy up the money in a number of different ways among various beneficiaries.”
Imami added, “Now, there are often people who are marginalized or cut out – maybe they’re family members, maybe they’re friends, maybe they’re anybody who might feel that, ‘Well, I deserve a share of her estate.’ There could be litigation even if she had an estate plan in place.”
Neither lawyer is involved in the settlement of Franklin’s estate, according to People.
Biographer David Ritz once told people that Franklin was very private and much of her life was cloaked in secrecy from the public.
Said Silver regarding her estate, “My expectation is that as much will be done behind closed doors as possible.”