PROBATE PROCESS IS INITIATED IN THE ARETHA FRANKLIN ESTATE
The procedure to start an estate in the probate court after a person's death is generally similar in Ohio and other states. The procedure can be slightly different if the decedent had no will. In either case, the probate court will not get directly involved in the estate's details unless problems arise.
Questions arose recently in a neighboring state regarding the filing of an estate for Aretha Franklin without a will. Although the papers were filed on the basis that there was no will, the box indicating there is no will was not checked. This leaves it open for speculation that the family is still searching for Aretha's will. That may have been one of the reasons why her four sons and Aretha's attorney met within hours prior to her death to discuss how probate would be handled.
The four sons signed waivers of the right to serve as personal representative in favor of Sabrina Owens, who is the singer's niece and a labor relations expert at the University of Michigan. This procedure tends to indicate that there is no will. The waivers would not be necessary if there was a will appointing a specific individual to serve as the executor.
The silver lining, however, is that the sons did agree to turn the administrative side of things over to Aretha's niece and the singer's longtime attorney. The personal representative will generally collect all assets, turn them into money and deposit the funds in the estate checking account. She will pay the decedent's cognizable bills and expenses, prepare the decedent's income tax filings, pay all administrative expenses and then distribute the net proceeds to the heirs.
Without a will under Ohio law and the law of all other states, the last procedure is done by following the specified inheritance schedules set forth in the intestate statute or regulations. With a will, the estate proceeds are distributed by the express terms of the will. Fortunately, although it appears that there is no will to probate, it also looks like reason will prevail, based on the apparent wise constraint shown so far by her children.