Singer Aretha Franklin died five years ago in August of 2018 and her estate has been in dispute in court among her family members. Last week, it took a Michigan jury less than an hour to decide that a handwritten Will from 2014 was valid and overrides another Will she executed in 2010.

When the singer died in 2018, it appeared that she did not have a Will, but months later two handwritten Wills were found in Franklin’s home.  One Will was found in a locked cabinet dated 2010 and the other in a notebook in her couch dated 2014.  Had there been no Will, the singer’s assets would have been divided per “intestate” succession between her four sons equally under Michigan law. With the discovery of the two Wills, questions were raised as to how her assets would be distributed including her home, music royalties, income from her estate as well as personal items such as her furs, jewelry, and musical instruments.

Brothers Kecalf Franklin and Edward Franklin were at odds with brother Ted White, II, who wanted the 2010 Will to control. The 2010 Will would have given the four sons specified weekly and monthly allowances and stated that Kecalf and Edward “must take business classes and get a certificate or a degree” to receive money from the estate.  The 2014 Will stated that just three of her sons, Kecalf, Edward and Ted would receive equal shares of their mother’s music royalties, but Kecalf and his children would receive more of her personal property including her home valued at $1.1 million and her cars.

While White’s attorneys argued that the 2010 Will, which was about a dozen pages and signed on every page and notarized, should be ruled as the valid Will, Kecalf and Edward claimed the later Will represented their mothers’ final last wishes.  Under the laws of most states, if a new fully executed Will is signed by a Testator, it will automatically revoke all prior Wills by operation of law.

This case highlights the importance of proper estate planning to ensure that your final wishes are carried out and to minimize potential family disputes and legal challenges.

If you, a friend or family member needs help establishing an estate plan or updating one, please reach out to our intake team at (760) 448-2220, or you can reach us on our contact page at

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