OAN’s Brooke Mallory
5:33 PM – Tuesday, July 11, 2023
Two documents recently discovered in the late Aretha Franklin’s cupboard and sofa have sparked rifts in the family after the famous musician’s death in 2018.
A jury ruled on Tuesday that the singer’s handwritten will, discovered beneath her sofa cushions and in a cupboard, is a legal Michigan will, a vital step in a battle that has now pitted three of her four sons against each other.
It is a victory for Franklin’s second and youngest children, Edward and Kecalf, whose attorneys claimed that documents dated 2014 should take precedence over a 2010 will discovered around the same time in a locked cabinet at the Queen of Soul’s home in Detroit, Michigan.
Clarence, Franklin’s oldest child, lives in an elderly care home in Michigan and is uninvolved in the issue.
According to his guardian’s lawyer, they “have reached a settlement that gives Clarence a percentage of the estate without regard to the outcome of the will contest.”
When Aretha Franklin died five years ago at the age of 76 from pancreatic cancer, she did not leave behind any formal, typed out will. Both found documents, with scribbles and difficult-to-read paragraphs, were later discovered in 2019 when her niece, Sabrina Owens, searched the house for paperwork.
In the 2010 version of the will, Both Owens and Franklin’s third eldest child, Ted White II, were named as co-executors or personal representatives of the estate. However, Owens resigned as a representative of her aunt’s estate in 2020, blaming family feuds.
“Given my aunt’s love of family and desire for privacy, this is not what she would have wanted for us, nor is it what I want… I love my cousins, hold no animosity towards them, and wish them the best,” Owens wrote in a letter filed in a Detroit court.
Franklin’s assets, which were previously estimated at $80 million when she died, were reduced to $6 million, due to more recent estimations and unpaid taxes.
The late musician’s estate administrators had reportedly been paying bills, resolving tax arrears, and earning money from song royalties and other intellectual property.
The 2010 and 2014 versions were slightly altered but still appear to suggest that Franklin’s four sons would split money from music and copyrights.
According to the 2014 will, Kecalf Franklin and his grandkids would inherit his mother’s primary property in Bloomfield Hills, which was assessed at $1.1 million when she died. It is now priced considerably higher.
The earlier version of the will said that Kecalf, 53, and Edward, 64, “must take business classes and get a certificate or a degree” in order to profit from the inheritance. However, that provision has now been retracted from the 2014 version.
Ted White II, who famously played guitar with Aretha, testified against the 2014 will, claiming that his mother would generally complete crucial documents “conventionally and legally” with the help of an attorney.
Don Wilson, an entertainment lawyer who represented Franklin for over 30 years, told NBC that as part of her estate preparation, he recommended she establish a will and a trust.
“But she was a very private person, and I think she didn’t want to share that information with another individual, such as an attorney. I think that’s why, for the longest time, she didn’t go into someone’s office and do formal planning, She went ahead and wrote them up herself,” Wilson said.
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