An ongoing feud, between Aretha Franklin’s two sons, is taking place in a suburban Detroit courtroom. It seems the Queen of Soul didn’t take the usual route in designating how her estate should be settled after she passed from this earthly realm. Now two of her sons, Ted White II and Kecalf Franklin, are immersed in a courtroom drama.  

It would seem that a celebrity of her status would have taken time to draft a typical formal typewritten will that would clearly lay out a game plan on how her multi-million-dollar estate should be divided among her surviving sons. But that isn’t the case. 

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The Drama Of Two Conflicting Wills 

 According to the Associated Press, two handwritten wills have surfaced since her death at age 76 in 2018. One of the documents was found in a locked cabinet, another in the couch cushions of her living room. The whole mess boils down to one question: Does a 2014 document count as a will under Michigan law?  

A niece of Frankin’s, Sabrina Owens, managed the estate immediately after Franklin’s death. After the death of her aunt, she was determined to search Franklin’s house for critical records. 

It was during this search that she discovered a 2010 will in a locked cabinet. It was handwritten and repeatedly signed by Franklin, and also notarized. It designated her son, Ted White II, as executor of the estate.  

As the search continued, a second handwritten will was discovered in the living room couch cushions. This document, written in 2014, crossed out White’s name as executor and named another son, Kecalf Franklin as executor. 

Saxophonist King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, and musician Joe Tex 1974

Soul Together
Don Paulson/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

So What Is The Issue Between The Conflicting Documents? 

Both documents appear to indicate that Franklin’s four sons would share income from music and copyrights. Both documents are confirmed as Aretha Frankilin's handwriting. The 2014 document states that Kecalf Franklin and grandchildren would get his mother’s Bloomfield Hills home, valued at $1.1 million when she died. 

The overall assets were set at $4.1 million, however, they will take a hit when lawyer fees are paid. One thing in this mess is clear. Take time to draft a proper will or trust before you check out and save the remaining family members from a whole bunch of hard feelings. 

UPDATE: A jury, on Tuesday, July 11th, 2023, decided that the will, found between couch cushions in 2014, is valid and overrides the 2010 will found in a locked cabinet.

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