Aretha Franklin: newly discovered will draft complicates estate dispute

Trial will be held to determine whether any of the documents discovered after Franklin’s death can stand as a will

A fourth possible will has been discovered in the attempt to finalise the estate of Aretha Franklin.

Filed in a Michigan court this week, the eight-page document, titled The Will of Aretha Franklin, was apparently drawn up in 2018 along with an additional document outlining the terms of a trust, the New York Times reports. Both papers are unsigned and marked as drafts.

The new draft will would create a trust to benefit her son Clarence, who has undisclosed special needs, and would split the remaining assets among her other three sons along with specific inheritances to other relatives.

According to lawyers for two of Franklin’s sons, Ted White Jr and Clarence Franklin, the documents show that the soul star had retained a lawyer, Henry M Grix, “for over two years”. After she “fell very ill”, another lawyer told Grix she was unable to sign the papers.

A previous will draft, dated March 2014, would give a greater share to her youngest son, Kecalf, and less to Clarence. Written in a spiral-bound notebook, the document was hard to decipher, with words scratched out and phrases written in the margins.

It was discovered – under sofa cushions – alongside two other wills, in Franklin’s Detroit home more than six months after her death. Initially she was thought to have left no will. Franklin’s estate has an estimated value of up to $80m (£57.4m).

A trial is due in August to establish whether any of the documents, some of which are handwritten, can formally stand as a will. Despite being unsigned, the newly discovered document could dictate the terms of Franklin’s estate if evidence shows that she intended it as such.

Among the Franklin estate’s forthcoming projects is Respect, a biopic in which Jennifer Hudson will play the legendary singer.


Laura Snapes

The GuardianTramp

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