Aretha Franklin’s Estate Turned Into A Messy Fight Over Will: 5 Things To Know

Aretha Franklin’s Estate Turned Into A Messy Fight Over Will: 5 Things To Know


In this Dec. 4, 2008 file photo, Aretha Franklin performs at the New York Stock Exchange in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

The “Queen of Soul” died on August 16, 2018. And since then, there has been a battle over the estate of Aretha Franklin. Franklin had an estimated net worth at the time of her death of around $80 million. In a career that spanned over six decades, she sold over 75 million albums worldwide.

Here are five things to know about the messy fight over her will.

1. Franklin will in the couch

A four-page will written in 2014 that was discovered in a couch cushion in 2019 was deemed by a jury on June 11 as being valid as her rightful last will and testament. This will make her youngest son, Kecalf Franklin, co-executor of her estate, according to the found four-page document.

But will, which had scribbles and hard-to-decipher passages, were discovered in 2019 when a niece scoured the home for records. On July 11, a jury decided it was valid. The case started July 10.

2. The Franklin heirs

Two of her sons, Kecalf Franklin and Edward Franklin, said the papers dated 2014 should override a 2010 will that was discovered around the same time in a locked cabinet at their mother’s home. They were up against their other brother, Ted White II, Franklin’s third son, who claimed that a will found in a cabinet in the singer’s Detroit mansion named him as her executor in 2010. Franklin’s eldest son, Clarence Franklin, was not involved in the dispute, Ebony reported. Clarence lives under guardianship in an assisted living center.

3. The decision on will

Kecalf is now in control of the estate, which includes her Detroit estate worth $1.2 million and other assets, Ebony reported.

4. The court battle

The jury deliberated less than an hour after a brief trial. 

“I’m very, very happy. I just wanted my mother’s wishes to be adhered to,” Kecalf Franklin said, according to The Associated Press. “We just want to exhale right now. It’s been a long five years for my family, my children.”

In closing arguments, lawyers for Kecalf and Edward Franklin said the fact that the 2014 papers were found in a notebook in couch cushions did not make them less significant.

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

5. Differences in the Franklin wills

Although both the 2010 and 2014 versions read that Franklin’s four sons would share income from music and copyrights, there are notable differences between the two wills. According to the 2014 will, Kecalf Franklin and the grandchildren would inherit Franklin’s main home in Bloomfield Hills, The Associated Press reported. But, the older will stated that Kecalf, 53, and Edward Franklin, 64, were required to pursue business classes and obtain a certificate or degree in order to benefit from the estate. This provision is absent in the 2014 version.

In this Dec. 4, 2008 file photo, Aretha Franklin performs during the 85th annual Christmas tree lighting at the New York Stock Exchange in New York. A Michigan judge narrowed the issues on July 10, 2023, in a dispute over Franklin’s estate, saying the only task for jurors is to decide whether a 2014 document handwritten by the Queen of Soul and found in couch cushions can be accepted as a valid will. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)