Aretha Franklin's estate falls under court supervision

The battle between family members of the estate of the great pop and soul artist Aretha Franklin is ongoing and, based how a recent court hearing transpired, may be getting worse.

At the end of the day, the judge overseeing the case decided to convert the estate in to what in the world of estate administration is called a supervised estate. In a supervised estate, a personal represent must obtain explicit permission from the court to do even when seems like a routine process, like selling valuable property. The judge declined to remove a niece of Ms. Franklin's, who has been serving as personal representative of the estate.

Many estates both in California or in other parts of the country are unsupervised, that is, the personal representative or executor may proceed with administering the estate under the assumption that he or she is following the law. Other parties may seek relief if they feel the personal representative is violating the law, but the personal representative generally does not have to get court approval for transactions.

The court also addressed a recent controversy surrounding three handwritten, or holographic, wills that were located in Ms. Franklin's home. The judge indicated that she would allow family members to have handwriting experts review the wills to determine which ones, if any, are authentic. These wills could change the course of the estate if any one of them is accepted as valid, as the understanding to this point had been that Ms. Franklin left no will.

There will no doubt be further developments as this probate litigation continues to unfold. While careful estate planning can prevent some conflicts like the one Ms. Franklin's family is facing, in many cases, family disputes can still boil over in to a contested estate administration. In such circumstances, it will often be important for a family in the greater Bay Area to consult with an experienced attorney.

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