Battle Over Aretha Franklin’s Handwritten Wills: Unusual Trial To Determine Estate Handling

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The final wishes of music icon Aretha Franklin, five years after her passing, remain unresolved as a trial looms to determine which of two handwritten wills should guide the handling of her estate. Starting next Monday, the trial will examine the legitimacy of the wills, including one discovered in couch cushions, in a unique legal battle.

Despite years of health issues and efforts to create a formal, typewritten will, the Queen of Soul, who had four sons, did not have one in place. However, Michigan law allows other documents, even with scribbles and alterations, to be considered as her directives.

The disagreement centers on one son’s belief that papers from 2010 should primarily dictate the estate’s management, while two other sons advocate for a 2014 document. Both wills were found in Franklin’s suburban Detroit home several months after her death from pancreatic cancer in 2018 at the age of 76.

Pat Simasko, an expert in wills and estates, and an elder law professor at Michigan State University College of Law, acknowledged the common occurrence of individuals passing away without proper estate planning. He expressed hope that the case could be resolved outside of a jury trial, emphasizing the potential for settlement at any point during the proceedings.

Aretha Franklin’s passing marked the loss of a global music sensation, known for timeless hits like “Think,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” and “Respect.” Her funeral procession, featuring a 1940 Cadillac hearse, drew thousands of mourners to a Detroit museum in August 2018, paying tribute to her legendary career.

As the trial approaches, the fate of Aretha Franklin’s estate hangs in the balance, highlighting the importance of proper estate planning and the complexities that can arise without clear instructions.

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