A family feud over the legendary singer Aretha Franklin‘s final wishes will go to court on Monday, the latest chapter in a years-long battle to divide the late Queen of Soul’s estimated $80 million estate.
Franklin died in 2018 after a six-decade career in the music business, leaving behind a legacy that included more than 75 million record sales, 17 Top 10 hits and 112 Billboard charting singles. Still, when she was stricken with pancreatic cancer at age 76, she left little in the way of plans for her earthly possessions, which included a home, as well as lucrative royalties and license assets.
According to the Detroit Free Press, by 2021, four different wills were discovered in the records of Franklin’s Detroit home, including three handwritten notes and one typed but unsigned document prepared by a law firm in 2017. According to the Under Michigan law, other documents, even those “with scribbles, erasures and passages that are hard to read,” can act as a will, as The Associated Press noted.
Although the various documents acknowledge that the estate is to be divided among his four children, the details of which of his children will ultimately control his estate remain legally murky. A document, dated 2010, names a son white theodore and niece Sabrina Owens as co-executors, reports the LA Times. It also contains the condition that two of his other sons, Kecalf Franklin, and edward franklin“They must take business classes and obtain a certificate or degree” before they can collect their share of their inheritance.
Another note dated 2014 maintains Owens as executor, but has White’s name blacked out. Instead, Kecalf is named as co-executor, and it is his family and his grandchildren who inherit Franklin’s Bloomfield Hills home, the so-called “crown jewel” of the estate. In that document, no business classes are mentioned for his beneficiaries, but a support guarantee for his eldest son, Clarence, is. (According to a 1991 Orlando Sentinel report, Clarence, born when Franklin was just 12, lives with schizophrenia and has spent his adult life in foster care.)
White’s attorney characterized the 2014 document as “merely a draft” and maintains that the 2010 note is signed and notarized. Noting the wild search of the Franklin home to find the wills, he says that if the 2014 document, found under some pillows, “were meant to be a will, there would have been more care than putting it in a notebook.” spiral under a sofa cushion.
The two factions will meet in court beginning next week, presided over by Oakland County Probate Judge Jennifer Callaghan, who has overseen the estate dispute since Franklin’s death.
Ultimately, a jury will decide which of the documents – both contain copious margin notes and strikethroughs – should be honored.
For his part, Owens, who served as executor since Franklin’s death, resigned in 2020 to “calm the gap in my family,” he added. “Despite my best efforts, my role with the estate has become more contentious with the heirs. Given my aunt’s deep love for family and desire for privacy, this is not what she would have wanted for us, nor it’s what I want”. .”