A will is a foundational and do-this-first document in virtually every individual’s estate plan.

We underscore that key point at the proven Middle Tennessee estate planning law firm of Russ Cook & Associates. We stress on our firm’s website that a well-executed will is a “cornerstone” legal instrument for most individuals and families attending to vitally important estate planning matters.

There is a catch to that, of course.

And that is this: A will must be validly executed in the state where it is probated to be held legally enforceable by a court.

Notably, it is the legendary and now deceased musical entertainer Aretha Franklin who helps to centrally make that point. Legions of fans across the world, including in Tennessee, noted well the artist’s passing last August. Although many of them could likely recite much of her songbook from memory, they understandably had no insight into her personal financial affairs.

They do now, to some extent. News began swirling immediately following Franklin’s death that the iconic star never executed a will. That was reportedly the understanding of her four adult sons, who media accounts state expected to receive equal shares of Franklin’s assets according to state law (Michigan law, in Franklin’s case).

Those expectations have now apparently changed, owing to a dramatic spin of events. National news accounts now report the discovery of several handwritten documents scattered around Franklin’s home that might comprise one or more wills. The emergence of a will, if held enforceable, could obviously change the entertainer’s estate outcome in material ways. There are reports that the singer’s sons have already split into separate camps concerning their views on what one report terms the “scrawled documents.”

There is often something instructive for the public to consider in an estate-linked tale tied to a widely known person. At a minimum, such a story can cast a huge spotlight on important subject matter.

A will unquestionably qualifies as such a topic. Franklin’s continuing estate saga firmly establishes how fundamentally important it can be for a planner to execute a will in a timely, tailored and legally tight manner.

Questions or concerns regarding any aspect of estate planning can be directed to a legal team with a long record of demonstrated client advocacy in that specialized practice area.