Aretha Franklin’s Sons Headed To Court To Battle Over Late Singer’s Estate Due To Handwritten Unofficial Wills

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin’s Sons Headed To Court To Battle Over Late Singer’s Estate Due To Handwritten Unofficial Wills

Aretha Franklin’s loved ones may finally be getting some closure.

Despite years of health issues and attempts to have a formal will prepared, the Queen of Soul, who had four sons, did not have one in place when she passed away five years ago. However, other documents containing scribbles, scratch-outs, and difficult-to-read parts may still be treated as her orders under Michigan law.

An upcoming unprecedented trial will determine which of two handwritten wills, including one discovered in couch cushions, will govern the administration of her estate.

Aretha Franklin’s Alleged 4th Will Found In Detroit

Pat Simasko, who specializes in wills and estates, said,

“Does it surprise me that someone passed away before they had their ducks in a row? The answer is never.”

He continued,

“This can be settled any time, on the steps, halfway through trial. And hopefully it will be. Going to a jury trial is a war.”

Because Aretha Franklin passed away without leaving a will, her four sons will probably split millions of dollars worth of assets, including real estate in the Detroit suburbs, furs, dresses, jewels, and potential royalties from her works.

Aretha Franklin

However, Ted White II feels that documents from 2010 should predominately govern his mother’s estate, while his brothers Kecalf Franklin and Edward Franklin favor a 2014 contract. Both were found in Aretha Franklin’s home a few months after she passed from pancreatic cancer in 2018 at the age of 76.

Although there are some variations between the contracts, it appears that the sons would split profits from music and copyrights in both wills, making this problem less difficult than some others.

Franklin suggested in a 2014 letter that her dresses might end up at auction or in Washington, D.C.’s Smithsonian Institution. She said in both documents that Clarence, the oldest son who is under guardianship, must get regular assistance.

Charles McKelvie, a lawyer for Kecalf Franklin, said,

“Two inconsistent wills cannot both be admitted to probate. In such cases the most recent will revokes the previous will.”

Kurt Olson, White’s lawyer, asserted that the 2010 will was notarized and signed while the later one “is merely a draft.”


Simasko, who also teaches law, claimed that in Michigan, an informal will can be used to carry out last wishes. He added,

“If you’re sitting there on a Sunday afternoon and you start handwriting your own wishes, the law allows it as long as the rules are followed: It’s in your handwriting, it’s dated and it’s signed.”

Three separate executors have managed Franklin‘s estate over the course of five years. In 2020, Sabrina Owens, a niece, resigned due to a “rift” between the sons.

Reginald Turner, a local attorney and former American Bar Association president, succeeded her. His most recent accounting, which was completed in March, revealed that the estate had received $3.9 million in revenue over the previous 12 months and had spent a similar amount, including more than $900,000 on legal bills paid to various firms.

Franklin’s total assets were estimated to be worth $4.1 million, primarily in cash and real estate. However, her original works and intellectual property were only given a paltry $1 value. According to court documents, the estate has paid the Internal Revenue Service at least $8.1 million since 2020.

What are your thoughts on the entire situation? Let us know in the comments!


Authored by: S. G.