Jury finds Aretha Franklin’s homemade Will to be effective

The American singer-songwriter, dubbed ‘The Queen of Soul’, who died in 2018, had prepared two handwritten Wills in 2010 and 2014 respectively.

The 2010 Will distributed her assets fairly evenly between her four children, with the caveat that her youngest child “must take business classes and get a certificate or a degree” in order to benefit. The 2014 Will provided that her music royalties and cash funds would be split evenly between her three older children; with her youngest child inheriting her primary residence which was valued at $1.2 million.

The 2014 Will was found by the Jury to be effective.

Whilst this case was heard in American courts, it serves as an important reminder of preparing your Will correctly.

The danger of homemade Wills

It may seem easy, on the face of it, to prepare a Will yourself. The reality is often far from that.

For a Will to be valid, there are certain requirements it must meet which are prescribed by section 9 of the Wills Act 1837. The Will must be:

  • In writing, and signed by the Testator, in the presence of two witnesses who must also sign; and
  • The testator must also intend by their signature to give effect to the Will.

The Testator must also:

  • Be 18 or over at the time they execute their Will;
  • Have ‘capacity’ at the time they execute their Will; and
  • Make the Will freely without pressure from anybody else.

If any of the above requirements are not met, the Will can be open to challenge. If the Will is not found to be valid, the deceased’s estate will either pass under the terms of an earlier, valid, Will if there is one; or will pass under the rules of intestacy. It is clear in these circumstances that the wishes of the testator may not be met.

How can we help?

If you have any concerns about the validity of a Will, our contentious probate team are here to advise you. Please contact Laura Alliss at laura.alliss@geldards.com or Ella Harmer at ella.harmer@geldards.com.

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