Aretha Franklin dies without a Will

Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul”, died intestate, leaving a fortune estimated at $80 million (£62.4 million).

In addition to Aretha Franklin, a list of celebrities who have also died intestate, include:

  • Rik Mayall;
  • Amy Winehouse;
  • Michael Jackson;
  • Bob Marley;
  • Pablo Piccasso;
  • Jimi Hendrix.

There are approximately 30 million adults in the UK, who do not have a Will (and many more who need to review their Wills, as they have had major changes to their circumstances, or are affected by tax changes).

Of the 30 million without Wills:

  • 54% have children;
  • 64% are unmarried couples.

Many people believe that if you die without a Will, your closest relatives will decide how assets are split. This is not the case. There are rigid rules covering who will receive the assets, so be warned.

The sad passing of Aretha Franklin should serve as a wake-up call to anyone without a Will. Failing to make provision for your loved ones when you die can lead to confusion and heartache. Your wealth could go to people you did not intend it to go to, depriving those you cared for most.

Here are some answers to some common questions on what happens if you die intestate.

We are married with no children. Will my spouse inherit everything when I die?

Yes. Your surviving spouse will inherit the entire estate. This is beneficial for the spouse, but it eliminates any claims for other relatives, including parents. The same rules apply to civil partnerships.

What happens if we have children?

The surviving spouse would inherit the first £250,000 of the estate, all personal items and half of whatever remains. The other half is inherited by the children and is divided equally between them, although they cannot gain access to the estate until they are 18. This applies to all children of the parent who has died, even if they are the result of previous relationships. It is possible that the share of any Estate that does go to children may be subject to Inheritance Tax.

We are an unmarried couple living together, with children. What happens when one of us dies?

The term “common-law partner” has no legal standing. This means that the surviving partner does not inherit anything. It is extremely important for couples in this position to make Wills. Under the intestacy rules, the deceased person’s Estate would be shared equally between the children.

What if we don’t have children?

The estate will pass to the deceased person’s parents, if one or both are alive. If the parents are not alive, it would be divided equally between any surviving brothers and sisters, or, failing that, to any half-brothers or half-sisters. The next in line are any grandparents, followed by aunts and uncles, then half-aunts and half-uncles. If there are no surviving relatives in these categories, the Estate passes to the Crown.

If there are no surviving blood relatives, what happens then?

The Estate passes to the Crown. The Crown can grant shares in the Estate to those who can prove that they have an entitlement.

What happens to children if both partners die at the same time?

The custody of children will not go automatically to the relatives or individuals intended, if they have not made their wishes clear in a Will.


At Ward Williams Financial Services Ltd we believe that having up to date Wills in place is an essential part of Financial Planning. This is to ensure that the Estate is passed to the appropriate beneficiaries, and that children are cared for by chosen guardians.

For more information please do not hesitate to contact the team at Ward Williams Financial Services Ltd on 01932 830664 or by email on

IHT, Tax

About the author

Cliff, Director of Ward Williams Financial Services Ltd, has nearly 30 years experience in the Financial Services Industry with a variety of institutions including a major Private bank. He established WWFS in 2003 and is qualified to Diploma level. Cliff has advised numerous clients on all aspects of Financial Planning including Wills and Estate Planning.  He has a deep understanding of the need to plan wisely in this ever-changing world. His interest and enjoyment, however, still comes from meeting with clients and helping them put the financial side of their lives in better order. Cliff has lived in the Weybridge area for over 25 years and is married with two grown-up children. A keen sportsman, he loves playing cricket, hockey and golf – but these days probably spends more time spectating!