Three handwritten wills found at Aretha Franklin’s home have raised questions for her $80m estate.
The letters were found in the Queen of Soul’s suburban Detroit home, months after her death in August 2018.
The most recent is dated March 2014 and appears to give the famous singer’s assets to family members. Some writing is extremely hard to decipher, however, and the four pages have words scratched out and phrases in the margins.
Franklin was 76 when she died last August of pancreatic cancer. Lawyers and family members said at the time that she had no will, but the three handwritten versions were discovered earlier this month. Two from 2010 were found in a locked cabinet after a key was located.
The 2014 version was inside a spiral notebook under cushions, said an attorney for Franklin’s estate, David Bennett.
Bennett, who was Franklin’s lawyer for more than 40 years, filed the wills on Monday. He told a judge that he’s not sure if they’re legal under Michigan law. A hearing is scheduled for 12 June.
According to Bennett, the wills were shared with Franklin’s four sons or their lawyers, but a deal wasn’t reached on whether any should be considered valid. A statement from the estate said two sons object to the wills.
Sabrina Owens, an administrator at the University of Michigan, will continue to serve as personal representative of the estate.
“She remains neutral and wishes that all parties involved make wise choices on behalf of their mother, her rich legacy, the family and the Aretha Franklin estate,” the statement said.
In a separate court filing, son Kecalf Franklin said Aretha Franklin wanted him to serve as representative of the estate in the 2014 will. He is objecting to plans to sell a piece of land next to his mother’s Oakland County home for $325,000.
Judge Jennifer Callaghan in April approved the hiring of experts to appraise Franklin’s assets and personal belongings, including memorabilia, concert gowns and household goods. The Internal Revenue Service is auditing many years of Franklin’s tax returns, according to the estate. It filed a claim in December for more than $6m in taxes.
Franklin’s star, meanwhile, hasn’t faded since her death. She was awarded an honorary Pulitzer Prize in April, cited posthumously for her extraordinary career. A 1972 concert film, Amazing Grace, was released with much praise from critics.
The estate is involved in “many continuing projects ... including various television and movie proposals, as well as dealing with various creditor claims and resulting litigation,” Bennett said.
Additional reporting by agencies