Aretha Franklin's Sons Fight Over Singer's Handwritten Wills

The Handwritten Will In The Couch: Aretha Franklin’s Sons Continue To Fight Over Singer’s Last Wishes

While Aretha Franklin ascended nearly five years ago, three of her sons are still involved in a legal dispute over her handwritten wills.

Aretha’s Franklins Sons Disagree On Which “Inconsistent” Will Should Be Respected

According to AP News, a trial over the matter is set to kick off later this month, and it’s centered on which of Aretha’s two handwritten wills should be abided by.

Reportedly, both documents were uncovered in her Detroit home months after she passed away. The 2010 document was inside a cabinet, while the 2014 will was discovered inside a notebook stored beneath couch cushions.

The 2010 will lists niece Sabrina Owens and Aretha’s third-born son, Ted White Jr., as the co-executors of her estate. Notably, this document also states that two of Aretha’s other sons, Edward Franklin and Kecalf Cunningham, “must take business classes and get a certificate or a degree” to receive estate benefits.

However, the newer document from 2014 makes no mention of these educational requirements. Additionally, Ted is replaced by Kecalf as the co-executor.

As a result, Ted is fighting for the 2010 document to be recognized. Meanwhile, Kecalf and Edward favor the 2014 will.

In support of the newer document, Kecalf’s lawyer proclaims, “Two inconsistent wills cannot both be admitted to probate. In such cases, the most recent will revokes the previous will.”

However, Ted’s attorney says the 2014 document was “merely a draft” and points out that the 2010 will was notarized. He also questioned the legitimacy of the 2014 will, considering where it was stored.

“If this [2014] document were intended to be a will, there would have been more care than putting it in a spiral notebook under a couch cushion.”

Could The Handwritten Wills Even Be Considered Legit?

While neither document was a formal, typed will, Pat Simasko — an instructor at the Michigan State University College of Law — tells AP News that state law nonetheless recognizes them as legitimate.

“If you’re sitting there on a Sunday afternoon and you start handwriting your own wishes, the law allows it as long as the rules are followed: It’s in your handwriting, it’s dated, and it’s signed.”

Humorously, the law instructor proclaimed, “Does it surprise me that someone passed away before they had their ducks in a row? The answer is never.” Oop!

However, Simasko added that the preventable matter can still be “settled at any time.”

“This can be settled any time, on the steps, halfway through trial. And hopefully it will be. Going to a jury trial is a war.”


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