Did the ‘Queen of Soul’ leave a valid Will?
Aretha Franklin died on the 16th August 2018 at the age of 76 after an ongoing battle with pancreatic cancer. Recent news reports have now revealed that a handwritten Will has been discovered under a sofa cushion in the Queen of Soul’s home in Detroit. It is being examined by a handwriting expert to determine the Will’s validity.
It was originally believed that Aretha Franklin died without a Will, leaving her multimillion pound estate to be distributed under the rules of intestacy. However, the lawyers for her estate revealed that three further Wills have subsequently been found.
Initially, two handwritten Wills written in 2010 were found locked in a cabinet. Those Wills revealed that the singer had named her niece, Sabrina Owens, and one of her son’s, Theodore White II, as Executors of her estate. The third Will was discovered under a sofa cushion and was allegedly written in 2014 and names another of her son’s, Kecalf Franklin, as sole Executor. The Wills are all currently undergoing scrutiny to determine their validity.
The 2014 Will is reportedly particularly difficult to decipher, so it needs to be determined whether it is a valid Will. The Will has words crossed out, notes in the margins and the handwriting is hard to read in places. If the Will is found to be valid then the estate will be distributed in accordance with the wishes set out in that Will. On the other hand, if it is ruled that the singer died intestate, then under the intestacy rules set out by Michigan state law, Aretha Franklin’s four surviving children would inherit an equal split of her estate which may be contradictory to what she would have stated in the Will.
The uncertainty around how Aretha Franklin’s estate will be distributed highlights the importance of creating a Will and ensuring that it is legal and stored in a safe place. Regardless of age, health and wealth, it is crucial that people state their wishes in a Will. This avoids their estate being distributed in the predetermined way dictated by intestacy laws which may directly contradict how they would have wanted their estate to be distributed.
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This article is not a definitive statement of the law. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. It is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. BakerLaw LLP and/or the writer accepts no liability or responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.