A Michigan jury has ruled that a 2014 document found in American singer Aretha Franklin’s bed after her death is a valid will for her multimillion-dollar estate. BBC.
The two-day trial pits the late Queen of Soul’s Children against each other in a battle over two handwritten versions of the singer’s last will.
Attorneys for Franklin’s two sons, whose half-brother Ted White, “wanted to exclude them.”
Tuesday’s ruling ended a nearly five-year legal dispute within the family.
Aretha Franklin’s 3 Wills Found in Her Home
The BBC writes that three handwritten wills of Aretha Franklin were found in her house a few months after the death of the artist known as the “Queen of Soul Music”. Aretha Franklin died on August 16, 2018 due to pancreatic cancer. Then his family said they had no choice.
Two wills dated 2010 were found in a locked office, and one from March 2014 was hidden under mattresses in the living room. The most recent will, written in a notebook, specifies that his assets will be left to the family, said lawyer David Bennett.
Some of the characters are difficult to decipher and words are written on four sides, with phrases written in the margins. Such a situation makes them impermissible in most states, but Michigan law allows handwritten wills as long as other criteria are met. Bennett, who has been the artist’s lawyer for more than 40 years, filed the wills in court and told the judge he wasn’t sure if they complied with Michigan law. Franklin’s four sons and their attorneys have seen these documents, but they have not reached an agreement on the validity of one of the three wills.
On Monday, Judge Jennifer Callaghan told jurors the only decision they had to make was whether they could accept the 2014 document as a valid will. Despite their differences, the two documents state that they are to share revenue from Aretha Franklin’s music and royalties.
Theodore White II — Franklin’s third child from a brief marriage to his former manager — claims the 11-page document from 2010 is the correct will.
That version names him co-executor of the legacy along with his niece Sabrina Owens, the artist’s granddaughter. The singer’s second and fourth sons, Keckalf and Edward Franklin, “must take business classes and get a certificate or degree” if they want to benefit from ownership of the property. Kecalf and Edward say the 2014 version is their mother’s top choice.
In a four-page document, Keckalf replaces his brother as co-executor. He and his grandchildren will inherit his mother’s $1.2 million mansion – described by Edward’s lawyer as the “jewel in the crown”. The new document calls for Franklin’s clothing to be auctioned off or given to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
Franklin’s estate was valued at $80 million when the star died in 2018, but recent appraisals and years of unpaid debts have significantly reduced the value. According to an inventory filed in court and seen by the BBC, the late singer’s estate is worth just under $6 million.
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