Discovery Of Three Handwritten Wills Complicates Estate Of Aretha Franklin

Written on behalf of Arbesman Hamilton LLP

Any complete estate plan, including a current, valid will, is one of the most important steps someone can take to ensure the financial security and well-being of their loved ones in the event that they should pass away. Having a well-written, carefully thought-out and up-to-date will can ensure someone that their estate will be distributed as per their wishes. It can also serve to minimize tax on the estate and hopefully minimize conflict amongst heirs. With all that said,  having one current will is great, but any more can be trouble. Just ask the family of the late Aretha Franklin.

Three wills

A recent article on Billboard.com explained that three handwritten wills were found in the suburban Detroit home of Franklin, often referred to as the “Queen of Soul.” When Franklin passed away at the age of 76 from pancreatic cancer, lawyers and family friends initially sad she had no will. However, in May, three wills were found. A lawyer said that one from 2014 was discovered under cushions in the living room, while two others from 2019 were found locked in a cabinet. The story explained that the 2014 will was inside a spiral notebook.

Off to court

Franklin’s longtime lawyer filed the wills with the courts in Michigan, stating he wasn’t sure if they were legal under state law. A hearing was scheduled for June 12, but no decision has been issued yet. One interesting note was that the wills were shared with Franklin’s four sons and/or their lawyers, but that “a deal wasn’t reached on whether any should be considered valid.” The story explained that a statement from the estate said two of Franklin’s sons objected to the wills while the remaining two accepted it.

Dealing with the assets

In the meantime, one of Franklin’s sons had filed papers with Michigan Courts indicating Franklin wished for him to serve as representative of the estate according to the 2014 will. He was objecting to the estate’s plans to sell land next to Franklin’s former home for the amount of $325,000.

In April, the courts approved for experts to be hired in order to appraise Franklin’s assets. The IRS has also filed a claim for more than $6 million in taxes and is auditing her tax returns.

Contact Arbesman Hamilton LLP in Toronto to obtain effective legal guidance with all of your estate planning needs, including wills and powers of attorney. An experienced estate lawyer can help you achieve your long-term goals and objectives, and plan ahead to protect yourself and your loved ones. Contact us online or at 416-481-5604 to book a consultation today.