Aretha Franklin Subject Of Trial Between Sons Disputing Handwritten Wills: Here Are The Details

Zinger Key Points
  • Aretha Franklin is one of the bestselling musicians of all time and left behind a legacy of hit songs and albums.
  • Franklin's sons battle over their mother's estate and last wishes.

Pioneering musician and “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin passed away in 2018. She left behind a lasting legacy of hit songs that have inspired hundreds, but her last wishes are the subject of a trial between her sons battling over what was her last will.

What Happened: It’s Franklin’s handwritten wills that are now the subject of a trial and debate among family members.

On Monday, the trial begins to see if handwritten documents found in Franklin’s home after her death are legal wills or can be dismissed. The handwritten notes in question were found in a couch cushion and a locked cabinet. Both documents are said to feature handwritten wishes from Franklin.

Franklin's sons have battled in court for years over the documents with the full trial set to determine what will happen to the singer’s music rights, money and property.

Sons Edward Franklin and Kecalf Cunningham believe the handwritten wishes found on a notebook in the couch cushion dated in March 2014 should be used by the court. The note favors Kecalf Cunningham in the wishes, according to the New York Times.

Another note, which was found in Franklin’s cabinet, was dated June 2010. Son Ted White Jr. said this note should be the one used for his mother’s final wishes.

Franklin’s other son Clarence Franklin is under legal guardianship due to a mental illness. The 2014 will could leave Clarence with less than his brothers. A settlement had been previously reached by Clarence’s representative that will leave him from taking sides in the legal battle.

A jury will be tasked with deciding which note is valid. The jury could also determine that neither will is legal and to be honored. In that case, the estate of Franklin would be split evenly among the four sons, based on Michigan law.

One item of note is a judge excluding previous documents drafted between Franklin and estate planning lawyer Henry Grix. White Jr. asked the court to include these documents as they were done with a planner. Judge Jennifer S. Callaghan dismissed the document after Grix testified Franklin “hadn’t made up her mind” about her will and final wishes.

Related Link: Goldman Sachs Names Top Stocks To Leverage AI Trend In Music

Why It’s Important: Franklin was one of the bestselling artists of all time with more than 75 million albums sold and over 100 charting singles. Many of the multiple hits sung by Franklin were written by her.

From 1966 to 1979, Franklin was signed to Atlantic Records, now a unit of Warner Music Group Corp WMG. Franklin also had several hit records for Arista Records, now a unit of Sony Group Corp SONY.

The estate of the late Franklin is estimated at $18 million consisting of vehicles, jewelry, gold records and four houses. Among the wishes from the 2014 document would see music rights split evenly among three of the four sons, but two of the four houses going to Kecalf Cunnigham.

Read Next: Where Warner Music Group Stands With Analysts 


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