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Aretha Franklin never "got around to" setting up an estate plan

One would reasonably assume that when Aretha Franklin died last month, she had a detailed estate plan in place. The "Queen of Soul," who succumbed at the age of 76 to pancreatic cancer, in fact, didn't even have a will.

Despite the fact that she was reportedly a shrewd businesswoman, it looks like her adult sons as well as other members of her family will need to deal with her multimillion-dollar estate without any legal direction from her. Her oldest son, 63, is reportedly incapacitated and has a guardian representing his interests. Her niece has agreed to be the executor of her estate.

So far, no word of conflict among the sons has emerged. Under the laws of Michigan, the state Franklin called home, since she wasn't married when she died, they would each get an equal share of the estate, which is at least somewhere in eight figures.

Although Franklin is associated with some of the most famous songs of all time, like "Respect," she didn't write most of them. Songwriters get the bulk of the profits from songs. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) could take a considerable amount of her estate -- as much as 40 percent of anything over $11.2 million.

Unfortunately, as one estate planning attorney notes, this happens more than it should. She says, "People don't like to face their own mortality" -- even when they're dealing with a terminal illness.

One of Franklin's longtime Los Angeles entertainment attorneys said that he encouraged her to set up at least a will and trust. He says, "She understood the need. It just didn't seem to be something she got around to." He notes that she probably wouldn't have liked the media coverage that her estate is now receiving. He says, "She was a private person."

With careful estate planning, you can provide for your family when you're no longer around, help minimize the amount of assets that are taken by the IRS, protect your privacy and help craft the legacy that you want to leave.

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