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Aretha Franklin’s Estate Battle Highlights Importance Of A Proper Will

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Aretha Franklin's family battles over her estate

Aretha Franklin passed away in 2018 from pancreatic cancer but left no proper will behind despite having health problems for years.

When the Queen of Soul passed away at the age of 76, she had two handwritten wills. Instead of having a formal, typewritten will, she had written down her wishes, on dated 2010 and another one in 2014. Both of those wills were discovered in her home months after her passing.

The 2010 will was found in a locked cabinet and the 2014 one was found in a notebook under a couch cushion. The state of Michigan has laws that recognize hand written wills as valid.

The Battle Over Aretha Franklin’s Estate

Aretha Franklin has four sons, and the battle over her estate stems from which will should govern their mother’s estate.

Two sons, Kecalf Franklin and Edward Franklin, believe the 2014 will should be used while one son, Ted White II, favors the 2010 will. While both wills say the four sons should share income from music and copyrights, the 2014 version of the will gives Aretha’s main house, valued at $1.1 million, to Kecalf Franklin and grandchildren while the 2010 version splits the house between Kecalf and Ted White II.

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Aretha stated in the 2014 will that her gowns could be either auctioned off or go to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. She also stated in both documents that her oldest son, Clearance, who lives under a guardianship, must be regularly supported.

The two sides have argued over the validity of the will they are disputing. While Kecalf Franklin’s lawyer argues the most recent will should be the final one White’s attorney says the 2010 is the proper will since it was notarized and signed. “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,” said White’s attorney Kurt Olson.

Since the family was not able to mediate a solution during the probate process, the case went to trail.

On July 11th, 2023, a jury found that the 2014 handwritten will should stand as Aretha Franklin’s proper will since she had signed it.

What Happens If You Don’t Have A Will?

A will is a legal document that states your wishes, often times in great detail, for what shall happen to your assets upon death. Besides having a will, you an also name an executor in your will to ensure your wishes are followed.

If someone passes way without a will, their assets will be divided among relatives based on each state’s succession laws. Your assets will be frozen until the court system goes through your assets and applies its state intestacy laws to divide up the assets.

In most cases, your spouse has first priority to get your assets followed by children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings. If you are single with no children, your assets will likely go to your parents then to your siblings.

No matter how much asset you have to pass on, having a proper will is highly recommended so that your wishes are clear and family disputes do not arise.

Aretha Franklin is not the only famous person to leave behind no proper will or trust. Bob Marley, Price, Howard Hughes, Pablo Picasso, Abraham Lincoln, and Jimi Hendrix all famously left no will behind.