Statutory Wills – on the grounds of lost capacity

Millie Phillips (Millie) is a 90-year-old woman who had three children by her former husband; two daughters Sharonne and Lynette (who died in tragic circumstances some time ago) and a son Robert. Sharonne has one child Anthony, and Robert has five children.

Millie whose estate is estimated to be worth approximately $90 million, suffered a stroke in April 2018 following which she has lacked testamentary capacity. Millie is presently being cared for at a facility and requires a high degree of care for daily living. Her cognition is severely impaired.

On 14 May 2018, orders were made appointing Sharonne and Robert as Millie’s financial managers under the Guardianship Act.

Millie had made at least two wills; on 13 June 1972 (the 1972 Will), with codicils made on 5 December 1973 and 13 July 1978 and on 2 November 2001 (the 2001 Will).

The 2001 Will revoked the 1972 Will. However, the original of the 2001 Will has not been located and Millie was heard to say, several times after the date of the 2001 Will, that she had no will – giving rise to the presumption that she destroyed the 2001 Will intending to revoke it.

Between November 2015 to April 2017, Millie had several conversations with Carolyn Deigan, a solicitor, in which she stated that she did not have a Will, did not know who to leave her money to and did not know who to trust to be her executors.

Carolyn prepared a draft will dated 22 May 2017 (the Draft Will). Although Millie did not execute any will she subsequently expressed her intentions in various discussions.

Millie and Anthony regularly engaged in very general discussions about her estate. In late 2016 or early 2017, Millie told Sharonne and Anthony that she had been thinking of leaving him a substantial asset in her Will but had been unsure about whether to tell him because of a fear that that knowledge might spoil Anthony and stop his drive and ambition.

Anthony brought an application for a statutory will; s18 of the Succession Act 2006 provides that a Court may authorise a will to be made, altered or revoked for a person without testamentary capacity – the Court must satisfy the following criteria:

  • The proposed will (or alteration or revocation) accurately reflects the intentions of the person as if they had testamentary capacity, and
  • the person lacks testamentary capacity, and
  • it is reasonable in all of the circumstances for the court to authorise the will and make the orders.

At first instance, the Court dismissed the application with costs, as Millie’s procrastination about making a Will suggested that her testamentary intentions weren’t ‘reasonably likely’.

On appeal, the Court considered that Millie making the Draft Will notwithstanding her comments that she did not agree with its contents, indicated a reason­able likelihood that she intended to have a Will produced

‘[t]he likelihood of making a will required the Court to inquire into the evidence as to the hypothetical subjective state of mind of Testator.’

However, even if the Court is satisfied that a proposed will is reasonably likely to be one that would have been made by a person with testamentary capacity, the Court must also consider the appropriateness of making an order.

The Court was satisfied with the evidence that Millie intended to make a Will; having had regard to the gifts made by the 2001 Will, the gifts proposed by the Draft Will and the gifts discussed with Carolyn- the Court concluded that the Draft Will reflected, to a very considerable extent, Millie’s wishes as to the disposition of her estate.

The respondents have sought leave to appeal the decision to the High Court

Presence; a ”Gentlewoman” and her maid

In England & Wales a Will must be witnessed by people in the ‘presence’ of the Will maker s9(c) of the Wills Act 1837(“the Act”) provides

“the signature is made or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time”

I posted about a woman who went to her attorney’s office to execute her will in the 1770’s and the influence that it has regarding remote witnessing of documents today.

In the 18th century, it was uncommon for English wills to be made by women. In 1779 Honora Jenkins “Gentlewoman” (the parish burial register records her as also being a widow) was entered into the probate register of the Prerogative Court in York.

Prerogative Courts in Canterbury and York had jurisdiction to grant probate or administration where the deceased left an estate above £5 within the diocesan boundaries of York or in more than one diocese in the northern province.

Honora’s is one of a handful of women’s names on that page of the register; two were identified as widows, one as a spinster.

Honora was born in 1720 and married John Jenkins, a customs house agent in 1747. On her father’s death in 1760, Honora inherited his estate in her own right expressed in his will as

”not in any way subject to the debts or control of her husband”

She also inherited the estate of the last Brooke baronet an uncle who died a lunatic and unmarried in 1770.

Honora was childless and had been widowed; the date she made her will isn’t known but when she died in 1778 her estate was left to a Mr Dade.

The validity of Honora’s will was tested in 1781 by the Court of Chancery in Casson v. Dade

Honora had given instructions to her solicitor to prepare a will attended his office to sign it and have it witnessed, where –

”Being asthmatical and the office very hot, she retired to her carriage to execute the will, the witnesses attending her: after seeing the execution they returned into the office to attest it”

Honora’s maid gave evidence that the carriage horses had reared up and moved the carriage back to bring the window and the witnesses attesting their signatures into Honora Jenkins’ line of sight; immediately after the attestation, the witnesses took the will to her, and one of them delivered it to her, telling her they had attested it, upon which she folded it up and put it into her pocket (which served a similar purpose as a handbag does today).

New South Wales, COVID19 & Remote Witnessing

In New South Wales Section 6 of the Succession Act provides that a Will isn’t valid unless it is in writing and signed by the Will maker (or by some other person in the presence of and at their direction ), and the signature is made or acknowledged by the Will maker in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time, and at least two of those witnesses attest and sign the will in the presence of the testator (but not necessarily in the presence of each other).

Casson v Dade (1781) 28 ER 1010 established visibility as the test of “presence”- the Will maker who suffered from asthma rested in her coach outside her solicitors’ office after signing her Will before two witnesses. Due to a fortunate series of events, the coach had been parked in such a way that it afforded a view of the interior of the solicitor’s office; the Court held the witnesses had signed in the Will makers presence.

In New South Wales today Parliament passed the Electronic Transactions Amendment (COVID-19 Witnessing of Documents) Regulation 2020 (NSW) (“the regulation”) allowing for the witnessing and attestation of documents to take place by audiovisual link.

An “audiovisual link” is defined as “technology that enables continuous and contemporaneous audio and visual communication between persons at different places, including video conferencing”.

A document is defined as a will, power of attorney or enduring power of attorney, deed or agreement, an enduring guardianship appointment, an affidavit, (including an annexure or exhibit to the affidavit) and statutory declaration.

Remote witnessing of signatures may be performed by audiovisual link, so long as the witness: observes the signatory sign the document in real-time; attests this by signing the document or a copy of the document; is reasonably satisfied that the document the witness signs is the same document or a copy of the document signed by the signatory; and endorses the document, (or a copy of the document) with a statement specifying that the document was witnessed in accordance with the regulations.

The regulations further state that a witness may sign a counterpart of the document, or by countersigning a copy of the signed document the signatory scans and sends the witness electronically.

The witness must sign as soon as practicable after witnessing the signatory sign of the document. However, this does not limit the other ways in which a witness may confirm they witnessed the document.

The regulation made under s17 of the Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (NSW) will expire on 26 September 2020, unless this date is changed by further regulation or resolution of Parliament.

Remote Witnessing in the Time of COVID19

The extraordinary nature of the COVID19 global pandemic has motivated some people to either make or revise their wills to reflect their changed circumstances In order to comply with the legislative formalities in each jurisdiction, a will must be properly signed and witnessed.

In Australia, each jurisdiction is slightly different but generally, the requirements for executing a formal will are that the document is in writing and signed by the Will maker with the intention the document is to be their will in front of at least two witnesses who must be mentally competent; in order to confirm that the will-maker’s signature, made in their presence was genuine.

Although no longer necessary, most wills have an attestation clause recording the circumstances of the signing and witnessing of the will.

New South Wales

In NSW s6 of the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020 made on 30 March 2020 provides that a person must not participate in a gathering in a public place of more than 2 persons unless it is a gathering of persons for the purposes of work; which includes work done as a volunteer or for a charitable organisation.

United Kingdom

In Scotland powers of attorney may be witnessed and certified by video. Similarly, the Scottish Law Society has issued guidance that a professional will draftsman might act as a witness on a video call provided that they are not an executor.

However in England & Wales s9(c) of the Wills Act 1837(“the Act”) provides that

“the signature is made or acknowledged by the testator in the presence of two or more witnesses present at the same time”

Remote witnessing introduces evidential difficulties concerning the question of whether or not the document signed by the testator is the same document signed by the witnesses. In order to satisfy the requirement as to the testator’s presence, they must have been in a position to see the witnesses sign.

Casson v Dade (1781) 28 ER 1010 approved a will where the witnesses signed the will inside the offices of the lawyer whilst the testatrix was in a carriage outside but in the line of sight of the witnesses.

If you were in a position for the Will maker to sign in front of a window while the two witnesses watch from outside; then pass the Will to the two witnesses to sign while the Will maker watches them sign through the window. However, this could be difficult to arrange.

The overriding purpose of the Act is to prevent fraud and ensure the veracity of the document (as the Will maker is not in a position to give evidence about the circumstances in which the Will was made) may weigh against interpreting s. 9 of the Act as permitting remote witnessing.

The BBC reports that Wills have been held in place by windscreen wipers and signed on a car bonnet in order to meet the requirements under the Act. Ministers say there are no plans to relax the strict rules. As such it wouldn’t be possible using video technology.

United States

In the United States reports that documents are being signed at meetings arranged in parking lots where witnesses are able to watch through a car windshield as people sign their document before safely exchanging them.

On March 20, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo allowed remote online notarisation of documents — one of the more than 20 US states to provide a solution to this challenge of self-isolation.

Canada

In Canada, the Ontario government has amended the Succession Law Reform Act to enable legal professionals to witness the signing of wills and powers of attorney through the use of audio-visual communication technology such as Skype or Zoom. Similar legislation has been passed in other Canadian provinces, including British Columbia and Quebec

COVID19 & Will making

Almost 60% of adult Australians have made a will which is more favourable in comparison with the reported rates in the UK and the US.

Although it has been reported that the likelihood of making a will increases with age (93% of Australians over 70 have a will) half of the population aged 40-49 have a will; 35% of Australians under thirty with financial dependents have a will but most younger people do not have a will.

Although 40% of Australians do not have a will, over half are planning to make one – with procrastination the main reason for not having a current will.

Few people make a deliberate decision not to make a will; including having few assets, not having children or dependents, being from a cultural group in which will making is not normative behaviour and/or having confidence that family members will manage assets appropriately and a will is not needed.

Similarly, as most Australians have made binding superannuation nominations, and some non-will makers held assets jointly and they weren’t non-planners with few assets.

People usual make a will following an important life event- getting married, having children or buying a house were the main triggers for making a will. Importantly knowledge of the consequences of intestacy is not a motivation for either making or not making a will.

Becoming ill or the illness, death of a partner, relative or friend, acting as an executor, changes in family circumstances and planning to undertake long-distance travel are triggers to make a Will.

Currently, we are experiencing a medical crisis where a significant and ongoing person-to-person spread of an infectious disease is occurring in multiple countries around the world at the same time. The impact of coronavirus on the wider community is unprecedented.

If you wish to make a Will, contact me and I will be able to conveniently and expertly advise you on your estate and assist in preparing a simple will enabling the distribution of your estate in line with your wishes

Do you want fries with that?McDonald’s Napkin Holographic Will

Philip Langan believing that he was having a heart attack while eating at McDonald’s in Yorkton Saskatchewan quickly wrote

Ron Langan

Dennis Langan

Sharon Langan

Landry Langan

Philip W. Langan

Marann Langan (Gust)

Dallas Langan

Split my property evenly, Dad Philip Langan”

He later gave the note to his daughter Sharon who wasn’t with him when he wrote it and asked her to take care of it.

Phillip died on December 30, 2015; in February 2016, Sharon and her brother Ronald produced the napkin they say was their father’s will.

Maryann submitted to the Court of Queen’s Bench Saskatchewan that Sharon believed Philip wrote on the napkin sometime after their brother Earl died in 2006, but before their brother, Landry died in August 2015.

Maryann submitted that Philip told her one month before he died that he didn’t plan to leave a will because

“he wanted us, kids, to fight like he had to.”

Maryann was sceptical the napkin was written by Philip because she had no other examples to verify his handwriting.

Ronald submitted that on the day his father, Philip, wrote out his intentions on the napkin he was fully aware of what he was doing including his reason for not to include my brother, Earl Langan, in the will.

“we’re not going to include Earl as he had passed away.”

Philip’s son Philip submitted he was with his father when he gave the handwritten document to Sharon telling her

“This is my will and I want you to keep this in case something happens to me.”

In Saskatchewan, handwritten (holographic) wills and  “formal” wills are both recognized as valid. Section 8 of the Wills Act provides

A holograph will, wholly in the handwriting of and signed by the testator may be made without any further formality or any requirement as to the presence of or attestation or signature by a witness.

In 1948, Cecil Harris scratched the following note on the fender of a tractor as he lay dying, pinned underneath.

“In case I die in this mess I leave all to the wife. Cecil Geo Harris,”

It was found to be a valid will.

However as holograph wills are often so informally drafted the court must ascertain whether the author of the document had the requisite testamentary intent.

 The Court believed there was enough evidence that Philip intended to create a will when he wrote the note. As Philip thought he was having a heart attack — a time when one’s mind would reasonably turn to the question of estate planning, especially “in the absence of an existing will

Philip immediately delivered the document to his daughter, Sharon, asking and that she keep the document in case something happened to him, verified by Sharon and Philip shows a clear testamentary intention.

Although the family has asked the court to determine whether Philips handwritten document is a valid will, they have agreed that regardless of the court’s decision, Earl’s children, just like Landry’s children, will receive a portion of the estate as though Earl had been named in the document; if the document is not a valid will and the estate is distributed as an intestacy, Earl’s children will be entitled to their father’s one-eighth share of the estate since under The Intestate Succession Act,

Retracting a Renunciation of Probate

The Supreme Court of NSW generally prefers to have estates administered by somebody who is present in the jurisdiction, who is able to personally attend to their duties within the jurisdiction and, by reason of their presence in the jurisdiction, is amenable to court orders designed to enforce obligations attending a grant of probate or administration.

Ron Tee Lim died on 1 February 2018 leaving assets in New South Wales, with a gross value of about $1.783 million and a net value of about $1.773 million. Ron’s Will, dated 1 May 1986 left the whole of his estate

“to my … brother and sister in equal shares or to the survivor of them”.

Ron had named his brother Colin executor; Colin predeceased him; his sister Kaye, (an overseas resident) had renounced Probate in March 2019;

”renouncing all rights to probate of the Will to be made or given to me.”

In July 2019 Seema Virinder Singh made an uncontested application for Letters of Administration with the Will of Annexed (”letters of administration cum testamento annexo” or “c.t.a.”.) in the Probate Registry.

On 7 August 2019, an Acting Deputy Registrar in Probate raised a number of requisitions, including that

“[Ms Singh] has no beneficial interest in the estate and the Court will not make a grant to such a person …”

in the absence of special circumstances being shown to exist, the application would be rejected.

Referring to s 72 of the Probate and Administration Act 1898 (NSW) (”the Act”) the Acting Deputy Registrar suggested that the only proper way in which Kaye could withdraw

”[t]he executor/sole beneficiary will have to file an affidavit retracting [her] renunciation”.

Section 72 of the Act provides that the executor of the estate or any spouse or next of kin of the deceased applying for a grant of probate or letters of administration who lives overseas may appoint an attorney within the jurisdiction pursuant to a Power of Attorney and authorise the attorney to act on behalf of the executor or administrator who is not resident of Australia to apply for a grant of probate or letter of administration.

However, an application by way of an Attorney must be on such terms and conditions as the Court consider fit. 

The Court granted Kaye’s notice of motion seeking leave to retract the renunciation so that as executrix, or some other person within the jurisdiction, appointed under her power of attorney to act for her, and if so that administration may be granted to such attorney, on behalf of Kaye on such terms and conditions as the Court thinks fit.

Testamentary Capacity & Freedom

Milan Zlatevski died in May 2015 aged 85 leaving a will made on 15 October 2013 (“the 2013 Will”) appointed his daughter Nada Geroksa executor and sole beneficiary of his estate.

Milan’s estate consisted of a home in Rockdale (“the Rockdale property”) worth approximately $1.2 million, and cash in a Commonwealth Bank account in the amount of $23,146.55; no liabilities we’re disclosed in Nada’s executor affidavit, therefore the total gross value of the estate was $1,223,146.55.

Nada sought probate of the 2013 Will. Milan’s son, Tony (Tode) Zlatevski, challenged the Will claiming that Milan lacked testamentary capacity at the time the 2013 will was made.

Tony also claimed that the 2013 will was vitiated by a false representation made by Nada that Milan had bought a house for Tony.

The Court had to determine whether Milan had testamentary capacity at the time he made the 2013 will; and whether the 2013 will was vitiated by a false representation made by Nada and relied on by Milan.

As Milan had not made another will if the 2013 document is found not to be valid, he will have died intestate. In that event, Tony sought an order that he be granted letters of administration.

The Court was satisfied that Milan had testamentary capacity at the time he made the 2013 Will; he had knowledge of the nature and extent of the estate (its only substantial asset was the Rockdale property); and was able to comprehend, appreciate and weigh up the competing claims bearing in mind the importance of a testator’s power to freely dispose of their assets and of respecting their choices.

“a testator (who) has disinherited a child for reasons that may be unfair or shock ordinary members of the community, does not make a will invalid.”

Tony submitted that the 2013 will was vitiated by a misrepresentation made by Nada that Milan had provided Tony with a house; this representation was false and was relied on by Milan when executing the 2013 will.

The making of a false representation to a testator which has a direct effect on the making of a will, such as by inducing a testator to make their will in a particular way, maybe equivalent to positive fraud and may render the 2013 will invalid.

The Court was satisfied that Nada’s representation

”he bought the Kogarah house for Tony”

was based on Milan’s own longstanding and repeated belief, and there was no basis for the Court to infer that it was made by Nada with a design to raise a prejudice in Milan’s mind against Tony for her benefit.

The Court ordered that Tony pay Nada’s costs of the proceedings – although exceptions to the general rule that costs follow the event have been recognised in probate litigation, no submissions were made to the Court that this was a case in which the exceptions apply.

Grundy Estate Settlement

Reg Grundy died in Bermuda (his place of domicile) on 6 May 2016, aged 93 years, leaving a will dated 21 January 2011 and sufficient property in NSW to admit the will into probate.

In 2015, Reg’s wealth was estimated as being $809 million, a figure largely stemming from the $320 million sale of Grundy’s company to Pearson Television in 1995.

Joy Chambers-Grundy is Reg’s widow, executor and, having survived him by 30 days, takes “the remainder” (the residue) of his estate after the provision of a lifetime annuity of $US250000 granted in favour of his daughter Viola La Valette (she changed her name from Robyn by deed poll in 2000), and payment of his just debts, funeral and testamentary expenses.

Viola was estranged from Reg which he referred to in his autobiography

“The loss of my daughter is the greatest heartbreak in my life. I have lost a daughter and gained a wife who is the light of my life. If only the three of us could have lived happily ever after.”

The limited provision made for his daughter in his will may be due to his disappointment with Viola’s treatment of him and his belief that she was unreliable in her handling of property and in need of protection.

In April 2017 Viola applied for a grant of family provision relief in respect of the estate, or notional estate, of the deceased.

A Family Provision Claim is usually made in a jurisdiction where the deceased lived at the date of their death, owned assets in that jurisdiction or both.

In most Jurisdictions, legislation governs who can bring a claim against a persons estate, generally speaking, this is

• The deceased’s spouse,

• a person living in a de facto relationship with the deceased at the time of death,

• a person living in a close personal relationship (such as a volunteer carer) with the deceased when the deceased died;

• The deceased’s child;

• The deceased’s former spouse;

A person who was:

• Dependent (wholly or partly) on the deceased at a particular time (this may include a former de-facto spouse, parent, sibling, or step-child; and

• A grandchild of the deceased, or

• a member of the household of the deceased;

who believe they have been left without adequate provision for the proper maintenance, education or advancement in life.

Adequate provision is unique and therefore difficult to define, the Court takes a number of factors into account:

• the applicant’s financial position,

• relationship with the deceased,

• the size of the estate and

• the deceased’s relationship with other persons who are eligible to make a claim.

Joy was reticent to provide Viola with a copy of her father’s will claiming that Reg had died without assets. Correspondence from the estates’ solicitors stated:

” Dr Grundy died without any assets in his sole name so that his estate owned no assets upon death. Therefore, Dr Grundy‘s Last Will will not be submitted for probate in the Supreme Court of Bermuda.”

Further correspondence in reply to a request from Viola’s solicitor stated:

a) Dr Grundy died domiciled in Bermuda and left no estate whether in Bermuda or elsewhere;

b) the law of New South Wales is irrelevant and the Courts of New South Wales have no jurisdiction;

c) we do not now have, and nor will we be seeking, any instructions to accept service of any misconceived proceedings that your client should care to issue in New South Wales.

Viola’s solicitor noted the Bermuda lawyers’ statement and invited them to address the question of a notional estate, both generally and by specific reference to particular items of property located in New South Wales, which they contend constitutes the notional estate.

A family provision claimant usually makes a claim for provision out of the actual estate of the deceased: this includes all property held solely in the name of the deceased when they died. The notional estate of the deceased includes property which is not directly owned by the deceased at the time of their death or has already been distributed- once designated as part of a notional estate, the property is dealt with for practical purposes as if it were property in the actual estate.

Notional estate orders are issued by the Court with the intention to make available for family provision orders assets that are no longer part of the estate of a deceased person as they have been distributed either before or after the deceased’s death (either with or without the intention of defeating applications for family provision).

Notional estate provisions brought to the forefront the distinction of ‘estate versus notional estate’ that had been implicit in the decisions using the legislation prior to the introduction of the Family Provision Act 1982(NSW).

Joy submitted that if the case were hashed out in open court, it would cause embarrassment, resentment and prurient media attention, which her husband never wanted and specifically avoided. Similarly, the exact size of the estate shouldn’t be of relevance to the case.

However, the court disagreed and gave Viola leave to determine the wealth of her father included granting access to her father’s will and NSW properties for the purposes of valuing them.

The court also ordered the news organisation that published a rich list estimating Reg’s wealth at $809 million to release the documents that the calculation was based on to Viola. Joy disputes this figure claiming the estate had a net value of “not less than about $214 million”

It was reported that Joy and Viola reached a confidential settlement over the funds, bringing an end to the matter in the New South Wales Supreme Court

Aretha Franklin’s estate has a new Administrator

Aretha Franklin described as The Queen of Soul, won 18 Grammy Awards and had more than 100 singles on the Billboard charts; at the time of her death, it was reported that Aretha had not left a will or established a trust. Aretha’s estate could be worth millions of dollars; as it contains not just her music catalogue but also clothing, memorabilia and rights to her likeness.

The estate is currently in negotiations for a TV series and movie about Aretha’s life. The Internal Revenue Service is currently auditing Aretha’s tax returns after claiming more than $6 million in taxes Detroit renamed a city-owned outdoor music amphitheatre after Aretha. At the unveiling the Mayor claimed “This daughter of Detroit has a permanent memorial,

Under Michigan law, the assets of an unmarried person who dies without a will are divided equally among their children. Aretha had been married and divorced twice.

Following her death, her four sons filed a document listing themselves as interested parties in her estate stating that Aretha “…died intestate and after exercising reasonable diligence, I am unaware of any unrevoked testamentary instrument relating to property located in this state as defined.” Aretha’s niece Sabrina Owens asked the court to appoint her, (and Aretha’s Sons agreed, that Sabrina should act) as personal representative of the estate.

Earlier this week Judge Jennifer Callaghan of the Oakland County Probate Court chose Reginald M. Turner, president-elect of the American Bar Association, as temporary caretaker of Aretha Franklin’s disputed estate

Turner responsibilities will include completing negotiations for a television series starting in May and a motion picture in October.

Turner a longtime friend of Aretha replaces Sabrina Owens, who resigned as executor, citing the disagreements among the family members. Mr. Turner was recommended by lawyers for Kecalf Franklin, 49, the singer’s youngest son.

Sabrina had a close relationship with Aretha, particularly toward the end of her life — she accompanied Aretha to doctor’s appointments and, helped arrange her memorial service.

Sabrina accepted the role of executor “under two important conditions”: that “no fractured relationships” develop in the family, and that disagreements did not end up in court — “both of which,” she wrote, “have occurred.”

Sabrina discovered two handwritten wills from 2010; one states that a previous will from decades earlier is “no good” the other is 11 pages long and is signed by a notary.

Sabrina discovered a further will, dated March 2014, located in a notebook found under living room cushions; although difficult to read the document sets aside various assets for family members, including her sons and grandchildren, in this document, Aretha states she wants her son Kecalf Franklin, to serve as personal representative of the estate.

However, the wills appeared to be disorganized and look more like rough drafts; words are crossed out and the documents contain notes in the margins and arrows.

David Bennett, who was Aretha’s lawyer for more than 40 years, sought clarification that the Wills were legal under Michigan law. A statement from the estate said two sons object to the wills. Michigan law gives great weight to the wishes if they are a clear and convincing expression of the deceased’s wishes.

Arethas sons are still in continuing Court action over who controls the rights to her image and music and how her assets should be distributed.

It is not uncommon for people to die intestate, as I have posted Prince, Billie Holliday, and Kurt Cobain died intestate, however, given Aretha’s legacy, business acumen, and long illness it is surprising that she didn’t make better arrangements for the control of her legacy.