Aretha Franklin had two handwritten notes that were not finalized upon her death in 2018. Now, the late Queen of Soul’s four sons are battling out in court to determine how the iconic singer’s assets will be distributed and who will control her legendary estate.
After Franklin passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2018, family members discovered two handwritten wills in the singer’s suburban Detroit home. One, which dated back to 2010, was found in a cabinet, and another handwritten will, dated 2014, was discovered inside a notebook stashed between couch cushions, according to the Associated Press.
Both wills appear to indicate that all four of her sons should share the income generated from her music and copyright royalties, but there are different requests listed on the documents.
The older will names Franklin’s son Ted White III and her niece Sabrina Owens as co-executors of the estate. The “Respect” singer requested that her two other sons Kecalf and Edward Franklin, “take business classes and get a certificate or a degree” to benefit from the estate.
But the 2014 version lists Kecalf as the executor. The powerhouse vocalist did not mention business classes in the later version of her will.
Under the 2014 document, Kecalf Franklin and grandchildren would inherit the soul icon’s home in Bloomfield Hills, which was valued at $1.1 million when she died, the Associated Press noted.
Both wills indicate that Franklin’s eldest son Clarence, who lives under guardianship, should be supported regularly. But in the 2014 version, the “Think” crooner requested that her expensive gowns be auctioned off to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
The family will gain clarity about the estate when they head to trial next week.
On July 10, Franklin’s family will finally head to trial to determine which document will be used to honor the decorated singer’s last wishes. Lawyers for Ted White and Kecalf are already coming in hot with their testimonies.
Charles McKelvie, a legal representative for Kecalf, argued in a court filing that the “most recent will” should supersede the 2010 version. But White’s attorney, Kurt Olson, believes that the 2010 document should be stated. According to Olson, the older will was notarized and signed, while the later version was “merely a draft.”
“If this document were intended to be a will, there would have been more care than putting it in a spiral notebook under a couch cushion,” the rep for White added.
Even though the soul diva had no formal will in place, under Michigan law, handwritten wills can still be used to honor a deceased person’s last wishes.
How did the legal dispute get here?
After Franklin’s death in 2018, Owens agreed to represent the estate as the executor due to there being no will in place. She was forced to decide how the singer’s sons would divide up her expensive assets, which include jewelry, furs, gowns, real estate and future royalties from her musical catalog, but in 2020, Owens stepped down from her executor role, citing “a rift” among the brothers.
Franklin’s assets total around $4.1 million, according to a recent account statement in March. Although multiple reports note that the singer’s fortune was worth $80 million.
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