September 20, 2023

It’s the one found in the dead singer’s couch

Aretha Franklin is sitting on a beige couch, wearing a brown shirt and pearl necklace, posing with a serious face

Aretha Franklin left two handwritten wills after her death in 2018. (Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

A Michigan jury ruled on Tuesday that a handwritten will found between the couch cushions in Aretha Franklin’s home after her death in 2018 is valid, according to reports.

The soul music legend had left behind two wills, scribbled in notebooks and scraps of paper, found in her Detroit home following her death from pancreatic cancer at age 76. more than $80 million, causing unrest among Franklin’s children. A legal battle amounted to a brief trial in an Oakland County courthouse that began Monday and ended Tuesday with a jury decision.

After deliberating for less than an hour, the jury chose the will written in 2014 and found months after her death in Franklin’s bank, according to the Associated Press. It names Franklin’s niece Sabrina Owens and Franklin’s son Kecalf Franklin as co-executors of the estate. The will also states that Kecalf Franklin and his children, Aretha Franklin’s only grandchildren, will inherit his mother’s main home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, which was valued at $1.1 million at the time of her death, but is much more today. is worth.

Read more: The trial will decide which of Aretha Franklin’s two handwritten wills is the correct one

The older will, written in 2010 and found in a closet in Franklin’s home, lists one of her other sons, Theodore White, and niece, Owens, as co-executors of the estate. It also states that Kecalf Franklin and her fourth son, Edward Franklin, must “take business classes and earn a certificate or degree” in order to benefit from the estate.

The 2014 will, which prevailed in court, makes no such requirements for Kecalf and Edward.

“I’m very, very happy. I just wanted my mother’s wishes to be fulfilled,” Kecalf Franklin told the AP. “We just want to exhale now. It’s been five long years for my family, my kids.”

Read more: Aretha Franklin, who defined an era as the Queen of Soul, dies at age 76

When the “Respect” singer died five years ago, relatives believed she left no will to determine how her estate would be administered. Franklin’s four children expected to divide her wealth equally, in accordance with Michigan law if a person dies without a will or spouse.

However, in 2019, Owens searched Franklin’s home and found the two handwritten wills, which were full of scribbles and passages that were difficult to decipher. While both wills agreed that her sons would share the proceeds of their mother’s estate, such as the current income from her recordings, they differed on who would serve as executors, pitting her children against each other.

Owens had served as executor of the estate immediately after the death of the “Chain of Fools” singer. She quit in 2020 as an attempt to “calm the rift in my family,” the Detroit Free Press reported.

Since then, Franklin’s asset managers have paid bills, settled millions in tax debts with the Internal Revenue Service, and generated revenue through music royalties and other intellectual property. However, the will remained controversial within the family.

Read more: How Jennifer Hudson Found New ‘Respect’ for Aretha Franklin in the Role of a Lifetime

Leading up to the trial, Kurt Olson, an attorney for White, defended the 2010 will, telling the AP that the document was notarized and signed, while the later draft was “just a draft.”

“If this document was intended to be a will, there would have been more care than putting it in a spiral notebook under a couch cushion,” Olson said.

Concluding arguments at trial, attorneys for Kecalf and Edward Franklin said the fact that the 2014 papers were found in couch cushions didn’t make them any less important, the AP said.

“You can take your will and leave it on the counter. It’s still your will,” attorney Charles McKelvie told the jury.

Another attorney, Craig Smith, pointed to the first line of the 2014 document, which featured four large posters for the jury.

“It says here: ‘This is my will.’ She speaks from the grave, folks,” Smith said.

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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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