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The Aretha Franklin Will Controversy: Why Proper Estate Planning Matters

Posted by Shenique A. Moss | Jul 09, 2023 | 0 Comments

Aretha Franklin, the late Queen of Soul, will forever be remembered as a legendary figure in music—a beacon of talent, strength, and soulfulness. Her impact on the music industry and her role as an advocate for change have solidified her status as an icon, ensuring that her legacy will live on for generations to come. In 2018, when she sadly departed, her estate was estimated at a staggering $80 million, a testament to her immense success.

Initially believed to have died without a will, two handwritten wills were discovered months after her death, creating a contentious situation among her four sons. According to a recent Los Angeles Times article, the two wills found at Franklin's Detroit home both stated that her sons will share the estate's profits. However, they offer different instructions on who should control the estate, leading to conflicts among the children. The 2010 will designates Theodore White and a niece, Sabrina Owens, as co-executors and stipulates that two sons, Kecalf Franklin and Edward Franklin, must pursue business education to benefit from the estate. In contrast, the 2014 will replaces Theodore White with Kecalf Franklin as the co-executor and omits the requirement for business classes. Because of these differences, a jury trial is set to decide which of the conflicting wills is valid. The main point of contention is whether the 2014 will supersedes (or cancels out) the 2010 will based on the principle that the most recent will revokes previous ones.

This case highlights how important it is to have an organized and legally valid estate plan in place. Without clear instructions in a well-prepared estate plan, loved ones may interpret the deceased person's wishes differently, leading to unnecessary conflicts. Such disputes can cause emotional strain and financial difficulties for those left behind. Lengthy court battles and legal proceedings can diminish the value of the estate, leaving less for the intended beneficiaries. 

To ensure that your assets are distributed according to your intentions, it is essential to make your wishes known. Seeking the guidance of an attorney can help you avoid complications and disputes. An experienced estate planning attorney can help draft a clear and legally binding will, establish trusts, designate beneficiaries, and plan for unforeseen circumstances. By taking proactive steps to organize your assets, clearly define your wishes, and consult with an attorney, you can spare your loved ones the emotional and financial burdens of estate disputes. Estate planning is a valuable investment that provides clarity, reduces conflicts, and ensures your loved ones can move forward with peace of mind during difficult times. Additionally, it preserves your legacy and ensures that your assets, values, and cherished possessions are distributed in a manner that reflects your values and priorities.

Discover the peace of mind that comes with a well-prepared estate plan. Don't leave your loved ones to navigate unnecessary conflicts and legal battles. Contact GenWe Law today for a complimentary discovery session. Let us guide help you in protecting your assets, defining your wishes, and preserving your legacy. 

About the Author

Shenique A. Moss

Managing Attorney


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