Home Entertainment Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin’s Four Sons Drag Themselves to Court Over...

Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin’s Four Sons Drag Themselves to Court Over Her Two Handwritten Wills 5-Years After She Died From Pancreatic Cancer


Five years after her death, the final wishes of music icon Aretha Franklin are yet to be settled.

A trial will begin next Monday to determine which of two handwritten wills, including one found in couch cushions, will guide how her estate will be shared.

According to Mail Online, the Queen of Soul, who had four sons, did not have a formal typewritten will in place despite efforts to get one done.

Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin

But under Michigan law, it’s still possible to treat other documents with scribbles, scratch-outs, and hard-to-read passages as her commands.

Ted White II, one of his sons, believes papers dated in 2010 should mainly control the estate, while Kecalf Franklin and Edward Franklin favor a 2014 document. Both were discovered in Franklin’s suburban Detroit home, months after her death from pancreatic cancer in 2018 at age 76.

‘Does it surprise me that someone passed away before they had their ducks in a row? The answer is never,’ said Pat Simasko, who specializes in wills and estates and teaches elder law at Michigan State University College of Law.

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

Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin

Franklin was a global star for decades, known especially for hits like ‘Think,’ ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ and ‘Respect.’

She was treated like royalty when she died, and her body was transported in a 1940 Cadillac hearse to a Detroit museum with thousands of people visiting.

‘She was the people´s diva,’ sociologist Michael Eric Dyson said at the time.

Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin

It was immediately known that Franklin had died without a will, which meant her four sons likely would share assets worth millions, including real estate in suburban Detroit, furs, gowns, jewelry, and future royalties from her works. A niece, Sabrina Owens, agreed to be personal representative or executor.

‘My advice? Go slow, be careful, and be smart,’ Franklin’s friend, businessman Ron Moten, told the sons at the funeral.

Owens reported that a handwritten will dated 2010 was found in a cabinet and another handwritten will, dated 2014, was discovered inside a notebook under cushions at Franklin’s home.

There are differences between the documents.

The older will lists White and Owens as co-executors and says Kecalf and Edward Franklin ‘must take business classes and get a certificate or a degree’ to benefit from the estate. But the 2014 version crosses out White’s name as executor and has Kecalf Franklin in his place. There’s no mention of business classes.

Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin

Kecalf Franklin and grandchildren would get his mother’s main home in Bloomfield Hills, which was valued at $1.1 million when she died but is worth much more today.

‘It´s the crown jewel,’ said Craig Smith, attorney for Edward Franklin.

The eldest son, Clarence, according to court papers has been diagnosed with a mental illness and lives with assistance in a group home outside of Detroit.

In one of her wills, his mother instructed her other sons to check in on Clarence weekly and ‘oversee his needs’. In this 2014 will, he is not even listed as a beneficiary.

Aretha Franklin wrote in 2014 that her gowns could be auctioned or go to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. She indicated in both papers that the oldest son, Clarence, who lives under a guardianship, must be regularly supported.

Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin

‘Two inconsistent wills cannot both be admitted to probate. In such cases the most recent will revokes the previous will,’ Charles McKelvie, a lawyer for Kecalf Franklin, said in a court filing in favor of the 2014 document.

But White’s attorney, Kurt Olson, said the 2010 will was notarized and signed, while the later version ‘is 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,’ Olson said.

Simasko, the law instructor, said final wishes can be fulfilled in Michigan through an informal will.

‘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,’ he said.

For five years, Aretha Franklin’s estate has been handled at different times by three executors. Owens quit in 2020, citing a ‘rift’ among the sons.

She was succeeded by Reginald Turner, a local lawyer who also served as president of the American Bar Association. His last accounting in March showed the estate had income of $3.9 million during the previous 12-month period and a similar amount of spending, including more than $900,000 in legal fees to various firms.

Overall assets were pegged at $4.1 million, mostly cash and real estate, though Franklin’s creative works and intellectual property were undervalued with just a nominal $1 figure.

The estate since 2020 has paid at least $8.1 million to the Internal Revenue Service, which had a claim for taxes after the singer’s death, court filings show.

‘The IRS claims took priority. The estate wasn’t going anywhere until the IRS got paid off,’ Smith said.

Facebook Comments Box
Previous articleBilly Porter Splits From His Husband Adam Smith After Six Years of Marriage
Next articleDoctors Remove Octopus From Patient’s Throat
Monte OZ
Monte OZ is a highly accomplished and respected international freelance journalist, travel and active adventure reporter, and leading entertainment & lifestyle blogger based in Africa. With a passion for storytelling, a sense of adventure, and an eye for all things captivating, Monte has become a prominent figure in the world of travel, entertainment, and lifestyle journalism. Born and raised in Africa, Monte developed a deep appreciation for the continent's diverse cultures, rich heritage, and vibrant entertainment scene. His upbringing fueled his desire to share Africa's untold stories and showcase its dynamic lifestyle to a global audience. Monte's extensive experience and expertise have made him a sought-after authority on all things related to travel, adventure, entertainment, and lifestyle in Africa. As an international freelance journalist, Monte has made significant contributions to various prestigious publications worldwide. His captivating articles, insightful interviews, and engaging features have graced the pages of leading entertainment magazines, lifestyle publications, and reputable news outlets. Monte's unique ability to capture the essence of Africa's entertainment and lifestyle scene has garnered widespread acclaim and recognition. With a love for exploration and a thirst for adrenaline, Monte also thrives as an active adventure reporter. He has embarked on daring expeditions, immersing himself in Africa's wild landscapes, and documenting his adrenaline-pumping experiences. Whether it's conquering treacherous peaks, exploring remote jungles, or engaging in heart-pounding activities, Monte's adventurous spirit and daring escapades inspire readers to embrace their own sense of adventure. In addition to his work in journalism and adventure reporting, Monte is a leading entertainment & lifestyle blogger in Africa. Through his influential blog, he offers readers an insider's view of the continent's vibrant entertainment scene, trendy hotspots, fashion trends, culinary delights, and cultural experiences. Monte's unique blend of storytelling, personal insights, and expert recommendations has made his blog a go-to resource for entertainment and lifestyle enthusiasts seeking the pulse of Africa's dynamic culture. Beyond his professional pursuits, Monte is a passionate advocate for promoting Africa's talent, creativity, and cultural diversity. He actively supports and champions emerging artists, musicians, designers, and entrepreneurs, helping to showcase their work to a broader audience. Monte's dedication to promoting Africa's vibrant entertainment and lifestyle industry has positioned him as a respected influencer and tastemaker within the African and global entertainment communities. With a commitment to excellence, a passion for exploration, and a talent for captivating storytelling, Monte Oz continues to captivate audiences worldwide. As an international freelance journalist, travel and active adventure reporter, and leading entertainment & lifestyle blogger, his work has left an indelible mark on the world of journalism, travel, and entertainment, solidifying his position as a trusted authority and go-to resource for all things related to African travel, adventure, and lifestyle.