Documents show Aretha Franklin died without a will

Image 1 of 2

In a surprise to many, superstar Aretha Franklin did not leave behind a will. 

TMZ obtained court documents which say the singer died intestate, which means she had no will at the time of her death. The lack of will is a surprise to many, especially since her health had been declining for many years. Her estate is said to be worth about $80 million. 

So where do things go now, according to Michigan law? 

FOX 2 legal analyst Charlie Langton says the matter will have to go into probate, which is the judicial process of proving a will. 

"[Probate] is not a terrible thing, but it is something that, I think we'll see a lot of Aretha Franklin, who has been very private," Langton says. "I think we're going to see a lot of where she invested the money, where the money is coming from and [it's] probably something that she would not want the whole world to know about."

He says the next steps are to notify creditors, appoint a personal representative to handle the estate and then to do an inventory of assets. 

"Where does her money come from? She probably has royalties; she may have had stock investments; she may have had personal probability. All of her memorabilia alone is going to be worth something. What's going to happen with that? All of these things that she, I would think, would have wanted to be private will now be public," Langton says. 

Aretha Franklin died last week in Detroit at the age of 76. After her death, her family said she had died of advanced pancreatic cancer. Franklin has four children. From the way things are understood now, the laws of intestate mean those four kids will get everything. 

"If there's no problems, everybody agrees, those four kids should split everything," Langton says. "If Aretha Franklin had wanted to set up something for the church, might she have wanted to give something to a museum, all of those things might be in jeopardy right now. The law says that the four kids, at this point, would get everything."

Langton recommends everyone getting a will when they get a job, or at least once they get married and have a family. 

Franklin's funeral, which is reserved for just close friends and family, is set for Friday, August 31 at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. The public is invited, though, to a viewing at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. - 9 p.m., and then on Thursday from noon to 4 p.m. at New Bethel Baptist Church where Franklin grew up worshipping and where her father was a pastor. 

Franklin will be entombed at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit, along with her father Rev. C.L. Franklin; sisters Carolyn Franklin and Erma Franklin; brother Cecil Franklin; and nephew Thomas Garrett.