Bleak House Revisited

Bleak House is a novel written by Charles Dickens in 1852. Set in England, it’s the account of a family dispute that resulted when a deceased ancestor left multiple conflicting wills. The case (Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce) spanned generations of the family and lasted so long that the legal costs entirely depleted the large estate. The case was ultimately abandoned. Turns out that Jarndyce, though fictional, may have some present-day parallels.

Consider Prince: The singer/songwriter died in April 2016, leaving an estimated $200 million estate but no will or trust. According to published reports, the estate is no closer to settlement today than it was three years ago. Conflicting claims of heirship and administrative expenses have already cost $45 million. One expert has opined that the wrangling will likely take ten years to resolve.

Closer to home is the estate of Aretha Franklin, who died in August 2018 leaving an estimated $80 million estate but no will or trust. Potential claims of creditors, issues with heirs, taxes and the difficulty of identifying and valuing the estate assets will surely mean high administrative expenses and a delay of distributions to the heirs.

Don’t have a multi-million-dollar estate, you say? Nothing to worry about, you say? Doesn’t matter. Unless you have a current will or trust, the problems could be just as real and costly to resolve (proportionately speaking, of course).

The attorneys at Wright Beamer have extensive estate planning experience along with expertise in probate and trust administration and litigation, all of which allow us to identify potential problems as we work with our clients to meet their estate planning goals.

Have an estate plan but need it updated? No estate plan at all and not sure how to get started? Let us help. Just call (248) 477-6300 and ask to speak to one of our estate planners.