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By Jason Carrozza

Hi Everyone,

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.

About the Author
Jason M. Carrozza is a partner and founder of Family Legal Partners, P.C., previously owning Carrozza Law Office, P.C., which focused on estate planning, probate administration, and business formation. He was recognized as a Massachusetts Rising Star by New England Super Lawyers and Boston Magazine in 2014, 2015, and 2016, an honor given to no more than 5% of attorneys in the state. Graduating magna cum laude from New England Law and ranked 3rd in his class, Jason completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Tampa. He gained experience in civil litigation, divorce, corporate, and insurance defense law firms before opening his practice in 2004. Jason is admitted to practice before the Massachusetts Courts, is a trained family law mediator, and a member of the Massachusetts Council on Family Mediation. He has volunteered for pro bono panels with Senior Partners For Justice, South Middlesex Legal Services, and the New Center for Legal Advocacy. Dedicated to his community, he has served in various leadership roles including vice president of the Bellingham Business Association and Master of Excelsior Lodge of Massachusetts Freemasons. He teaches Estate Planning Basics at the Tri County Continuing Adult Education program and speaks at estate planning seminars throughout the year. An avid baseball fan and history enthusiast, Jason enjoys outdoor activities and spending time with his family. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Katrina, and their children, Zachary and Madelyn.