Skip to content

View Aretha Franklin’s two handwritten wills at center of sons’ legal battle over her estimated $6M estate

The two handwritten wills at the center of a years-long legal battle over Aretha Franklin’s estimated $6 million estate were barely legible — with crossed-out words and scribblings in the margins — but had to be deciphered by jurors, who were shown large posters of one of the documents at trial this week.

The Oakland County Probate Court jury reached its verdict Tuesday finding a 2014 document — discovered in a spiral notebook crammed under couch cushions at Franklin’s suburban Detroit home in 2019 — was a valid Michigan will.

Two of the Queen of Soul’s sons, Kecalf and Edward Franklin, believe those papers should be honored as their mom’s will, while their brother, Ted White II, aka Teddy Richards, wants a document from 2010 to be found valid instead.

The main difference between the two documents is whom Franklin designated as her executors in each — White and Franklin’s niece in the 2010 document and Kecalf and Edward in the 2014 one.

An executor must carry out the terms of the will and take care of the administration of an estate.

Judge Jennifer Callaghan on Monday ruled the jury must only determine if the more recent 2014 document is a valid will.

But that didn’t appear to be an easy task — as all the pages contained notes in the margins, crossed-out words and were messily written. Jurors saw four blown-up versions of the 2014 document in court Monday.

In the papers dated March 31, 2014, the “Chain of Fools” singer — who died of pancreatic cancer at 76 in 2018 — crossed out the name “Teddy” and wrote in Kecalf and Edward as the executors of her will.

Meanwhile, the June 21, 2010, document — found locked in a cabinet in the Bloomfield Hills house with another one-page handwritten will from later that same year — states Kecalf and Edward can’t benefit from Franklin’s estate until they take “business administration classes or get a certificate or degree.”

It also lists White — a musician who played guitar during his mother’s performances — and Franklin’s niece, Sabrina Owens, as the executors.

White, 60, told the jury that he spent a great deal of time working with his mom administratively and “every other document that she ever signed was something that was done conventionally and legally,” with the help of an attorney.

The “Respect” singer appears to have wanted all three sons to “split evenly” the money in her bank accounts, according to the later document.

She also designated that the trio split her copyrights, songs, awards and interests in a biopic, the 2014 papers state.

The “Respect” singer appears to have wanted all three sons to “split evenly” the money in her bank accounts, according to the later document.

“My jewelry, furs, fine furnishings, music, art, copyright would belong to my estate or to be divided equally to my children,” Franklin wrote in the 2010 papers.

Kecalf and his kids were given her primary home in Bloomfield Hills and its furnishings and cars — while she appears to have gifted other houses to White and Edward, the more recent papers say.

It also appeared as though the hitmaker wanted her grandchildren to “equally” benefit from her recordings with Atlantic Records and Warner Media, the newer documents say.

Franklin wanted her gowns to be auctioned at Sotheby’s or to be donated to the Smithsonian museum, according to the 2014 record.

Both documents specified that Franklin’s other son, Clarence Franklin, who is under a guardianship, should be given money on a weekly basis to provide for all of his needs.

Kecalf, 53, told jurors Monday that his mom carried out many tasks — such as phone calls, reading mail, signing documents and even sleeping — “on the couch.”

Jurors also heard a statement from Owens — who was not present at trial — about how she scoured her aunt’s home for a will.

Today's News.
For Conservatives.
Every Single Day.

News Opt-in
(Optional) By checking this box you are opting in to receive news notifications from News Rollup. Text HELP for help, STOP to end. Message & data rates may apply. Message frequency varies. Privacy Policy & Terms:
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.