Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin’s handwritten will found under sofa is valid, jury rules

A will found under a sofa cushion in Arethra Franklin’s home has been ruled valid by a jury in the United States after two of her sons challenged the previous will which would’ve left her assets to her other son.

After Franklin died in August 2018, it was thought she had left no will. However, the discovery of the sofa cushion will was preceded by another will found in a cabinet in her home.

This evoked a court battle between her sons over her inheritance. The trial began on Monday and was expected to last less than a week. A jury had to determine which of two documents should be ruled as the valid last testament of the “Queen of Soul”.

It’s reported that a six-person jury at the Oakland County Probate Court heard from witnesses, including the Franklin children, her niece Sabrina Owens, and a handwriting expert.

The sons were in a battle over the discovered will. Franklin’s third child, Theodore White, argued that the document from 2010 was the valid will. This version listed him as a “co-executor or personal representative to the estate” along with the niece.

This version of the will requests Kecalf and Edward Franklin, the second and fourth sons, to “take business classes and get a certificate or a degree” whilst the now valid 2014 will – found in a spiral notebook under sofa cushions – states that Kecalf replaces his brother as a co-executor and he and his grandchildren would also “inherit his mother’s $1.2m (£934,000) gated mansion – a home described by Edward’s attorney as “the crown jewel”.

What’s more, the court in Pontiac, Michigan, heard three voicemail messages earlier this year that were recorded in the months before Franklin died – discussing another will she was preparing with an estate lawyer.

Franklin was heard expressing certain “firm intentions” in the messages from a hospital bed. However, attorney Henry Grix testified he believed she “hadn’t made up her mind” about her final wishes.

Commenting on the news, Heledd Wyn, private client partner, at law firm Shakespeare Martineau said:

“Grief and money always make for a potent combination and can be a source of great stress for families after a loved one dies.

This case goes to show exactly how important it is to plan ahead to make sure that your wishes are accurately recorded in a way that is legal. This can prevent a huge amount of heartache for your loved ones and lower the burden of legal costs in the long run.”

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