Probate court approves hand-written Aretha Franklin will found in couch and signed with a smiley

Originally published at: Probate court approves hand-written Aretha Franklin will found in couch and signed with a smiley | Boing Boing


Note to self: make proper last will and testament, notarized and whatnot. Leaving everything to the cat I haven’t got.


Aretha Franklin was screwed by promoters, so she did all bookings and business in cash. Her going rate was $25k per show at the end of her career, and you needed to have it in cash, up front or she wouldn’t perform. It’s no surprise that her the battle of her will shows the same foibles.

My Queen.


Yep, not only (in my opinion) to ensure that what you have goes where you want it to, but also just to make things easier for whoever has to clean up after you.


Having gone through this twice in the past 4 years, those who have to handle the afterwards will thank you. My grandmother’s will was detailed, specific, and unbelievably clear. My greedy sister and uncle both got appropriate shares, not a penny more, although I’m fairly certain my uncle liberated a good amount of jewelry when he briefly showed up to “help” pack up her home.

My stepdad’s was far more messy. All his daughters assumed they were getting paid giant piles of money when he died…not understanding he left a wife behind who got the very small amount of assets there actually were. Multiple lawsuits, all getting no one money but the lawyers. The new will for the assets took all of that to heart and is pretty simple. Spoiler: it doesn’t go well for them.


That “has to clean up after” has really become a dominant mental theme. do i have enough in value so as to just will it all to a clean up service (and body disposal) such that it’ll amount to a ‘break even’? (“tsk…almost had enough left over for the post-it note that said who was once here.”)


I am currently in the process of cleaning up a mess my late brother left behind on behalf of my father.
My mother handled all the financial affairs for her and Dad. When she passed, there was a scramble to figure out where all the accounts were.

Rather than go through the simple process of asking my father for Power of Attorney, my brother set up an online account in his name but my father’s bank accounts in order to streamline and automate expenses. My brother unexpectedly died of a stroke in his early 50’s last year and now its up to me to untangle the mess with the bank this weekend

I am hoping the bank can just delete my brother’s online account without having to close my father’s checking. He has his pension, IRA disbursements and social security on direct deposit and his credit cards and utilities on autopay.


It’s a good way to go out on a high note. As much as I appreciated my father when he was alive, I just as much admired how having his affairs in order gave us all the chance during a difficult time to celebrate his life without worrying about fights and drama over his stuff (my narcissist step-mother tried, of course, but his belts-and-braces estate planning was a sort of final revenge on her).

Aretha was a Queen, but she didn’t do her family any favours once she left us.


My dad’s estate, such as it was, was considerably smaller, but I had something similar happen. He never filed an actual will but among his many piles of papers in his office I found a notebook with a page full of writing, obviously written when he was in a deep depression and mad at the world, leaving everything to his wife at the time. It was undated and unsigned, but based on other notes in the surrounding pages, we estimated it was written about 7 to 8 years before his death and about a year before he divorced his wife.

I knew his feelings towards his ex-wife when he died, but I also knew she had been helping him with his medical care as a friend, although not as a partner (as far as I could tell, anyway.) She knew about that notebook, but didn’t know where it was. I could have easily made it disappear into the void and claim to have never seen it, but I’m not that kind of person. I turned it over to the executor of the estate, my uncle, and said it should go to the lawyer along with all of dad’s other important paper we’d salvaged.

North Carolina law accepted this as a holographic will, even without an actual signature, but we contested it since he’d been pretty vocal in his last few weeks about not letting her “grab everything,” saying that she and her son (not from him) had been stealing from him. She moved into his decaying house long before the case was over and getting her out was more trouble than it was worth.

Three years later, she died, ending the stalemate. Of the remaining value, I got a third, her son got a third, and the lawyer got the last third – lots of anguish over relatively little. I can only imagine how bad it would be over $6M!

tl;dr? File an actual will!


I read somewhere that she demanded the cash on site, put it in her handbag, put the handbag in plain line of sight at the edge of the stage (with one of her ‘assistants’) and then walked on stage. At the end she walked off stage, picked up the bag and immediately left the venue.

No idea if it’s apocryphal but I hope it’s true, and all power to her for doing it.


Yes, just to echo what several people here have made clear from their own personal experiences, make sure you have a proper will, signed, witnessed, and/or notarize depending on the law where you live. It will make everything easier for your loved ones. Or hated ones, as the case may be.

Also, for much the same reason, look into a living will or medical power of attorney. You don’t want to make your loved ones have to decide whether or not you would want extraordinary measures taken to prolong your life, should you end up unable to make those decisions. Make them now, put it in writing, get it notarized, make sure everyone who may need it knows where it is or has a copy. You don’t want to put your loved ones in the position of having to decide if you’d want the plug pulled or not. Make the decision now and document it. Don’t put that burden on them.

After I took Wills, Trusts, and Estates in law school, I went and made out a will with an actual attorney, as well as a living will. I hope they aren’t needed for a very long time, but it’s definitely removed some worries. I even put instructions in there that my current legal name has to go on wherever my ashes get interred. One of my biggest fears is my parents swooping in and deadnaming me on a grave stone. That now is not possible.

No one likes to think about this shit, but we’re all going to die. It’s the most certain thing in our lives. Don’t put this off. I don’t care if you’re 25 and in perfect health.


This is why my will & testament is written in Voynich and signed with emojis.



The trip to the bank with my dad went the bank went a lot smoother than expected. Apparently my brother set up my dad’s accounts as joint ones. So it was just a matter of replacing his name with mine and creating a new online login.

My wife and I setting secondary beneficiaries our my investment/retirement accounts and doing wills/health care proxies this week.


Some additions to the good advice already here:

  • You can download a simple medical power of attorney form from the internet. Be sure to keep a copy of it on your phone, in Photos, Notes, Dropbox, whatever;

  • If there is a problem person, find out if there is a minimum you have to do in the will to make it clear that you are purposely not leaving anything (or much) to them;

  • Have a copy – either a certified copy or one with an original ‘wet’ (ink, not photocopied) signature – somewhere obvious like a well-marked folder in your desk drawer as well as the original someplace more official like a lawyer’s office or bank safe deposit box;

  • Have a conversation (or two, or more) with the person who will be your executor. Make sure they know where your cheat sheet is, with all of the crucial account information – including passwords! – so they don’t have to hope you have one when the time comes, only to find out you don’t;

  • While you’re alive, tell people as much as possible about your wishes. That way, even if the will isn’t clear, your loved ones will have a good sense of what and why you want things a certain way.


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