It has been in the news of late that the loved ones of the late Aretha Franklin, the famed Queen of Soul, actually did have three handwritten wills hidden in various locations around her home. Until this discovery, the thought was that she had no estate plan.
Of these three wills, two of them, dating from 2010, were found locked in a cabinet. The remaining will, although written four years later in 2014, was found hidden in the cushions of a couch.
Ms. Franklin remained very discreet about the wealth she had accumulated over the course of her career as a famous Motown artist. She did not create a formal will or even let her long-time lawyer know about the existence of these holographic, or handwritten, wills.
Ms. Franklin’s four sons are fighting over the validity and the substance of these wills.
After all, even in states like North Carolina, where holographic wills are technically valid, handwritten estate directives can still raise a lot of difficulties and points of contention during the probate process.
For one, at least in North Carolina, a person still has to satisfy certain conditions before a holographic will can be admitted in to court. Even then, there still might be questions as to the authenticity, timing and overall validity of the will. Moreover, holographic wills may not be drafted in such a way to clearly express what the deceased person wanted.
Although holographic wills can in theory be used in North Carolina, the standard advice for someone who wants to plan an estate would be to create a valid will with the help of an attorney. Holographic wills present special challenges in the probate process that may require litigation to help resolve.