Lessons from Aretha Franklin: Why Nigerian Celebrities Should pay Attention to Distribution of the Wealth they Leave Behind

Looking beyond the fame: How can celebrities leave a lasting legacy?

For most people, the passing of a loved one is underlined immediately by grief. However, when a famous person dies, an additional layer is added to the feelings loved ones have to deal with… Was the cause of death natural? What becomes of all they left behind? Who gets what? What is fair and what most honours their memory?

When globally recognised Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin passed, fans wept, colleagues applauded her artistry, critics published ‘untold stories’ about her career, while relatives and close friends mourned and celebrated her life. In the midst of these, curious revelations surfaced; Aretha died intestate – which simply means she did not leave a will!

Celebrities tend to sometimes get so caught up in enjoying the finer things of life that they avoid thinking of anything after life on earth. While they subconsciously want to leave a legacy behind, this avoidance overshadows the reality that true legacy is ensuring all the wealth you have accumulated in your lifetime is distributed exactly as you want it after your passing, so that your impact can still be felt generations after. As human beings in general, a significant requirement to achieving this is the acknowledgement of our mortality, as well as the clear understanding of what is within our power. Conscious decisions and actions – both financial and legal – should preclude death, because we do have tools to control our assets after we pass on.

The strong wave of celebrity that has dominated the country in the last two decades has added more vestige to the idea of being famous. Now, Nigerian celebrities are treated with similar if not the same measure of relevance accorded to their contemporaries abroad. Similarly, Nigerian celebrities are imitating the lifestyles of their Western counterparts both in their personal and professional lives. This is most visible in their ability to now ‘sell out’ concerts both home and abroad, not to mention increasing collaborations across geographies.

Are our celebrities taking adequate measures to protect their families and loved ones? In the case of unexpected demise, what becomes of their labour of love? How are they to ensure that their work and its value is sustained for impact on their children’s children?

That a woman like Franklin left all that she had amassed unattended at the time of her demise is surprising. According to Franklin’s long time lawyer, Don Wilson, Franklin put off writing a Will or Trust despite several prompts to put a plan together. While we may not ever know why, what is certain is that her loved ones will have to go through the unnecessary strain of obtaining rights to access what is left of her wealth after over 40% of what is left behind, has been paid out in taxes. In addition to this, the management of all that she left behind will become a public affair – in complete contrast to the private life she led.

This presents an obvious learning for other celebrities the world over. Plan for today and tomorrow so that you retain full control over your hard-earned wealth and imprint your name in the minds of loved ones after you have left the earth… now that’s a Legacy!

The advantage of an Estate Planning option like a Trust or a Will, is that it can serve you both while alive and after. FBNQuest Trustees provides insights on not only the benefits of trustee services tailored specifically to the objectives of the individual, but also educates the public consistently with basic knowledge of these services via its Legacy Series.

Call today if you would like to know more, or tune in to the Legacy Series radio show for more insights on Trusts, Wills, Family Investment Planning, Business Succession Planning, and Estate Administration on Mondays on Classic 97.3 FM Lagos at 5.45pm, Tuesdays on Rhythm 94.7FM Abuja at 6.15pm, or Cool 95.9 FM Port-Harcourt at 7pm; as well as on Wednesdays on Smooth 98.1 FM Lagos at 8.15pm every fortnight.

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