Amidst a bitter fight over the Queen of Soul’s estate, a jury ruled that a handwritten document found in her couch after her death is legitimate
A Michigan jury has decided that a document written by Aretha Franklin and found in her couch after her 2018 death is a valid will, The Detroit Free Press reports.
The decision is a major victory for Franklin’s youngest son, Kecalf, who’d been arguing in favor of the couch document’s validity as it seemed to suggest the Queen of Soul — who did not leave a formal will — wanted him to assume control over her estate. While Kecalf had the support of his brother, Edward (Franklin’s second-oldest son), his efforts were opposed by Franklin’s third son, Ted White, as well as the guardian for her eldest son, Clarence, who has special needs.
Lawyers for Kecalf and White did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s requests for comment.
The couch document (dated 2014) was one of two found in Franklin’s home in 2019, along with another 11-page document dated 2010. While all of Franklin’s sons agreed the 2010 document was a valid will, a contentious legal battle emerged over whether Franklin had actually signed the 2014 document, validating it so it would supersede the one from 2010. (As such, the trial briefly focused on the nature of Franklin’s signature, which often included a smiley face.)
While both documents appeared to indicate that Franklin wanted her four sons to split the income from her music and copyrights, there were some significantly different stipulations between the two. The biggest arguably involved Franklin’s home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, which was valued at $1.1 million when she died. In the 2014 document, Franklin appeared to bequeath the home to Kecalf, while the 2010 will divided Franklin’s assets more evenly amongst her heirs.
Additionally, the 2010 doc included some conditions for Kecalf and Edward should they want to take control of Franklin’s estate: The two “must take business classes and get a certificate or a degree,” Franklin wrote at the time — conditions she did not include in the 2014 document.