The Queen of Soul died intestate—which means she was without a will at the time of death—according to court documents obtained by TMZ on Tuesday.
Intestate succession in Michigan, where Franklin died and was from, state the singer’s four children will share her estate equally. She is survived by sons Clarence, 63, Edward, who turns 61 this month, Ted “Teddy” White, Jr., 54, and Kecalf, 48.
According to celebritynetworth.com, Franklin’s net worth is estimated to be around $80 million. Where that money will go currently remains unknown, but two attorneys not involved in Franklin’s estate tell PEOPLE that distributing such assets is never easy.
Kenneth Silver, a shareholder at Hertz Schram law firm in Michigan, speculates to PEOPLE that Franklin left behind a number of assets. “I would expect that she has a house, probably a financial account of some kind — a brokerage account, stocks, bond, cash. She probably has investments of a wide variety — perhaps in real estate ventures, other businesses that she may own or have an interest in.”
He continues, “[She may have] copyrights to her songs, perhaps publishing rights to her material, perhaps the material of other artists. And I’m sure she has probably a pretty valuable collection of personal property, things like Grammys, gold records, memorabilia from Motown years and onward.”
The New York Times reported that it is unclear what family members Franklin is survived by.
Shaheen Imami, a shareholder at Prince Law Firm in Michigan, says what comes next is usually dictated by an estate plan.
“If she had an estate plan, you’ll first look to the estate plan,” he says. “If she did have a plan, it would consist of a will and a trust. And then they divvy up the money in a number of different ways among various beneficiaries.”
Imami notes, though, “Now, there are often people who are marginalized or cut out — maybe they’re family members, maybe they’re friends, maybe they’re anybody who might feel that ‘Well, I deserve a share of her estate.’ There could be litigation even if she had an estate plan in place.”
Silver further speculates to PEOPLE on how decisions regarding Franklin’s finances may be decided.
“My expectation is that as much will be done behind closed doors as possible,” Silver says. “It is the objective of the survivors of any deceased, whether it be Aretha Franklin or John Smith, to handle affairs as simply and quickly as you can. If you can avoid court proceedings, you want to avoid court proceedings. Sometimes you just can’t do that… In my experience, the larger the estate, the more public the figure, the greater the likelihood that there is going to be an issue.”
“She’s not atypical in her privacy, she’s just extreme,” Ritz explains. “I think her strategy for emotional survival was idealization of her life in general. When you tend to idealize things, you don’t have to deal with a lot of the tough realities.”
Franklin’s family released a statement to PEOPLE following her death on Thursday, saying, “In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds.”
“We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers. We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”