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5 Tips to avoid family drama when writing your own Will (DIY) and the story of Aretha Franklin

Updated: May 21



The late Queen of Soul & Gospel Aretha Franklin, like so many of us, did not want to talk about dying. Upon her death it was thought that she had not made a formal Will.


However, soon afterwards three “hand scrawled” Wills were discovered at Aretha’s home (one was stuffed behind a cushion on the sofa).


This led to her 4 sons and loving family completely falling out with each other. Arguments and bitter feuds still continue today over who will inherit Aretha’s vast Estate over one year after her death.

The real cost to a bereaved family when no formal Will is left is massive, both emotionally and financially.


All bank accounts and assets become frozen and cannot be accessed by anyone until after Probate has been granted. The costs of contesting a Will can be huge, time consuming and deeply upsetting. It will also vastly reduce the amount of money that is left at the end of this, if any!

At a time when a family should be supporting each other in their grief and heartache, they are instead caught up with arguing over who has what. Unnecessary red tape and complicated procedures follow when a person has died leaving no Will. (Even when you don’t have millions like Aretha)


Now take a moment to imagine if this happened to your family after you died….

As difficult as it may be to face the taboo topic of death and writing our Will, it is in fact the most precious gift and act of love we can give to our family and friends.


Here are 5 tips for how you can avoid potential family dramas like Aretha’s when writing your own Will (DIY)


1. The Independent witnesses of your Will cannot be beneficiaries of your Estate.

2. When wording your Will, people’s full names need to be written, not using general terms eg “to my wife/husband” and check the spelling. (sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised!)

3. If you are writing your Will by hand, each word needs to be clearly written, or better still, write it in capital letters to ensure it is legible, and again, check the spelling.

4.. Have only the ONE up-to- date Will and destroy any other copies and use the appropriate wording that “revokes” any previous Wills.

5. Only make a DIY Will if your Estate is straightforward and simple. And do use the correct format.

And bonus tip:

6. Remember to tell your Executor where it is! (another seemingly obvious one, but again you’d be surprised!)

*in England & Wales

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