Happy Wednesday! This week we're discussing Aretha Franklin's continuing estate saga. It was believed that the Queen of Soul had no will. However, in May 2019, Sabrina Gaett Owens, the artist's niece and the estate's Personal Representative, found three different handwritten wills in the star's home. Two wills were dated 2010 and the last will was dated 2014 and found underneath a couch cushion!
The contents of the wills are contradictory, difficult to decipher, and give a lot of insight into Franklin's personality. The biggest issue the court is faced with is determining whether these wills are valid pursuant to Michigan law. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for June 12, 2019, to determine the documents' validity. Whichever will the court deems valid is going to have a tremendous impact on the estate.
To make matters worse, her sons are now arguing as to who is the estate's rightful Personal Representative. Kecalf Franklin, Aretha's son, filed a motion to remove Sabrina Gaett Owens as Personal Representative and appoint himself. In opposition, Theodore White II, Franklin's son from her first husband, filed a motion in opposition to Kecalf Franklin and requested that he be appointed Co-Personal Representative with Owens. With dueling Personal Representatives and contradictory wills, this battle is sure to continue on for quite some time.
Franklin clearly had some foresight as to what she desired with her estate, but by creating these wills without legal advice she has left her legacy in shambles. If you intend on creating a will, please ensure it's valid! Also, a will is simply one component of a comprehensive estate plan. A basic will does not solve all of your problems. In fact, a will ensures that the court oversees your property division. If it's time for you to receive personal legal guidance on your estate plan and how to make it as easy and streamlined as possible, please contact us today.