Judge cites handwritten will and awards real estate to Aretha Franklin’s sons

by Chloe Baker
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A judge presiding over the administration of Aretha Franklin’s estate has awarded real estate to her sons based on a handwritten will from 2014 that was discovered among her belongings. This decision, rendered on Monday, comes after a Detroit-area jury, four months earlier, affirmed the document’s validity under Michigan law, notwithstanding its scribbles and several difficult-to-decipher passages. Notably, Aretha Franklin had signed the will and even added a smiley face in the letter “A.”

The newly discovered papers will take precedence over a handwritten will from 2010, also found in Franklin’s suburban Detroit home in 2019. According to the judge, one of her sons, Kecalf Franklin, will inherit the property mentioned in the 2010 will, which was appraised at $1.1 million in 2018 but has likely appreciated since then. This property had been described as the “crown jewel” by a lawyer prior to a trial held in July.

Another son, Ted White II, who had favored the 2010 will, was awarded a house in Detroit. However, this property had already been sold by the estate for $300,000 before the existence of the conflicting wills came to light. As a result, Ted White II is requesting the proceeds from this sale, as explained by Charles McKelvie, an attorney representing Kecalf Franklin.

Under the 2014 will, a third son, Edward Franklin, was granted another property. Aretha Franklin owned a total of four homes when she passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2018. The existence of these two handwritten wills, emerging months after her death, sparked a legal dispute among her sons regarding the distribution of her real estate and other assets.

One of the properties, valued at over $1 million, is likely to be sold, and the proceeds will be divided among the four sons. However, the 2014 will did not clearly specify who should receive this property, leaving room for ongoing debate.

While the estate’s issues regarding real estate have made progress, there remains a dispute concerning the handling of Aretha Franklin’s music assets. The will suggests that her sons should share any income derived from these assets. A status conference with the judge is scheduled for January to address this aspect of the estate.

Aretha Franklin, a global music icon for decades, is best known for her hits in the late 1960s, including songs like “Think,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” and “Respect.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Inheritance

Q: What prompted the legal dispute over Aretha Franklin’s estate?

A: The legal dispute over Aretha Franklin’s estate was triggered by the discovery of two handwritten wills, one from 2010 and another from 2014, which emerged several months after her passing in 2018.

Q: How did the court determine the validity of the handwritten wills?

A: A Detroit-area jury affirmed the validity of the 2014 handwritten will, despite its scribbles and difficult-to-read passages, based on Michigan law. Aretha Franklin’s signature and the addition of a smiley face in the letter “A” played a crucial role in establishing its authenticity.

Q: What were the outcomes for Aretha Franklin’s sons in terms of real estate distribution?

A: Kecalf Franklin was awarded the property mentioned in the 2010 will, while Ted White II received a house in Detroit, which had been sold before the wills were discovered. Edward Franklin obtained another property under the 2014 will.

Q: Is there still an ongoing dispute related to Aretha Franklin’s estate?

A: Yes, there is an ongoing dispute regarding the handling of Aretha Franklin’s music assets, which the will indicates should be shared among her sons. A status conference with the judge is scheduled for January to address this matter.

Q: What was the significance of the property valued at over $1 million?

A: The property valued at over $1 million is considered valuable, and its sale proceeds will likely be divided among the four sons. However, the 2014 will did not specify who should receive this property, leading to continued debate.

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