Skip to main content

It was a shocking truth only brought to light in the recent days since her passing.

A headline from the New York Times broadcast the news: “Aretha Franklin Died Without a Will, and Estate Issues Loom.”

Wait. What? There wasn’t a single person in Aretha Franklin’s life who pulled her aside and said, “I don’t care if you don’t want to deal with this. You’re getting a will!”

Not one? No family member? No friend? Sadly, nope.

Amanda DiChello, a lawyer quoted in the New York Times article, notes that a surprising number of celebrities and wealthy people die without a will. “It’s easier not to address it,” she says. “Then it costs oodles and oodles of money to handle the mess after the fact.”

No kidding.

Truth is, I don’t think this is just an issue for celebrities and the mega wealthy. Try to imagine a conversation at your church about a will. Is it even possible?

The topic of a will is intensely personal, and asking someone if they have one seems nosey. What business is it of mine if someone has a will or not? I should just keep to myself… right?

Besides, families are supposed to be checking to make sure wills are in place and updated. Or at least good friends are doing that… right?

Statistically speaking, they probably aren’t.

When people die without a will, it’s more likely a failure of those around them to care courageously. This is care that refuses to make assumptions; that names the elephant in the room; and that has difficult conversations when needed.

Since caring without flinching is a hallmark of life in Christ, these conversations are not just possible at church, but to be expected. In this context, it’s not difficult to imagine overhearing a believer sincerely asking another, “But what about a will? Do you have one in place?”

Certainly, this question doesn’t get asked every day and of every one. It’s always part of a conversation that requires sensitivity and discernment. It’s still intensely personal.

But the point is that this question gets asked. And it gets asked because it’s the church… right?

Few church members will receive fame and accolades the way Aretha Franklin did during her lifetime. But every believer, no matter how meager their circumstances, can be afforded care from another believer who, in Jesus’ name, says to him or her, “Let’s make sure you have a will.” 


I spent many years as a lawyer dealing with Wills & Estates and have been a "planned giving" consultant for many Canadian charities over the past dozen years.  I often use the quote "Those without Wills have included lawyers amongst their heirs".   I remind people that Wills used to be called "Last Will & TESTAMENT!!!"  Unfortunately, too many folks have not considered what testament they will leave for their children and charities. 

The best draft Will I ever read was written by a senior couple who spent the first 10 pages relaying the blessings God had bestowed upon them during their lives and providing the "instructions" they wished to pass on to their children.  The couple indicated their reason for this testimony was that it would be the last time they'd be able to "talk to their kids" and they knew the kids would be listening since the kids would want to know what was on page 11.

Let's Discuss

We love your comments! Thank you for helping us uphold the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

Login or Register to Comment

We want to hear from you.

Connect to The Network and add your own question, blog, resource, or job.

Add Your Post