Aretha Franklin's children in legal fight over handwritten wills found under sofa and hidden in cabinet
Jul 25, 2023
One handwritten will was found under a sofa cushion, another in a locked cabinet - now a jury must decide which represents Aretha Franklin's final wishes.
Tuesday 11 July 2023 10:18, UK
Aretha Franklin's sons are in court fighting over two handwritten wills - one found in a cabinet and one under a sofa cushion.
The soul singer died in 2018 aged 76 without leaving a formal, typewritten will.
That meant her assets would have been split equally between her four sons.
But in 2019, her niece found two different handwritten documents in her late aunt's house.
One in the locked cabinet was dated 2010, and the one in the sofa was from 2014.
A court in Detroit must now determine which one should be used as her valid last testament.
The older version was repeatedly signed by Franklin and is favoured by her son Ted White II, who is named in it as executor of the estate.
In the 2014 version, his name is crossed out as executor and another son, Kecalf Franklin, is named in his place.
According to that document, Kecalf Franklin and grandchildren would inherit Franklin's main home, which was valued at $1.1m (£850,000) when she died but is worth much more today.
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There are differences between the documents, but they both appear to indicate that Franklin's four sons would share income from music and copyrights.
Kecalf Franklin told the court he did not consider it unusual that important papers like a will would be found in the living room.
Asked by his lawyer where his mother often read letters, made important phone calls, signed documents and even slept, Kecalf Franklin repeatedly said, “on the couch”.
Read more:How much star's mansion sold forA fitting goodbye to the Queen of SoulStars pay their respectsA life and career that demands Respect
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Sabrina Owens, the niece who found the documents, also said "she would use the kitchen and living room - that was about it".
"So when I got to the sofa, I lifted up that far right cushion and there was three notebooks there.”
The jury will hear closing arguments on Tuesday.
The last public accounting filed in March showed the estate had income of $3.9m (£3m) during the previous 12-month period and a similar amount of spending, including more than $900,000 (£700,000) in legal fees.
Overall assets were pegged at $4.1m (£3.2m), mostly in cash and property, though Franklin’s creative works and intellectual property were undervalued with just a nominal $1 figure.Click to subscribe to Backstage wherever you get your podcastsRead more:How much star's mansion sold forA fitting goodbye to the Queen of SoulStars pay their respectsA life and career that demands Respect