Aretha Franklin’s sons awarded real estate after will between couch cushions ruled valid

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Four properties Aretha Franklin owned at the time of her death will be divided among her four sons months after a jury determined a 2014 will written by Aretha Franklin and found between her couch cushions superseded a 2010 handwritten one locked in a cabinet.

The judge overseeing Franklin’s estate says she’s following the wishes of Franklin’s 2014 will and has assigned real estate to the late star’s sons.

The will was found after the “Respect” singer’s niece, Sabrina Owens, searched her suburban Detroit home for documents after Franklin died of pancreatic cancer in 2018 without a formal will.

Franklin’s son, Kecalf Franklin, will get the property where the wills were found. It was valued at $1.1 million in 2018, but the value has risen. Her son Edward Franklin will receive another property from the 2014 will, and Ted White II, whom she shared with music manager Ted White, was given a property sold by her estate for $300,000. 

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“Teddy is requesting the sale proceeds,” Charles McKelvie, an attorney for Kecalf Franklin said of the property bequeathed to White, which had been sold before the wills had been found. White had favored the 2010 will.

Kecalf and Edward had argued the 2014 will should override the 2010 will. 

A fourth property, worth over $1 million, will likely be sold and the profits divided among her four sons, including Clarence Franklin, who lives in an assisted living center, after a judge ruled the wills didn’t clarify which son should inherit it. 

Aretha Franklin with her son Kecalf

“This was a significant step forward. We’ve narrowed the remaining issues,” McKelvie added. 

The discovery of the two handwritten wills months after her death led to a dispute among the sons over what their mother wanted to do with her real estate and other assets.

In both wills, Franklin says her four sons would share income from her music and copyrights. But in the 2014 version, Kecalf Franklin was named executor. White was named executor in the 2010 version.

Another provision in her 2010 will that said Kecalf, 53, and Edward, 64, “must take business classes and get a certificate or a degree” to benefit from her estate was dropped from the 2014 will. 

The 2014 will was at times difficult to read and included scribbling and a smiley face in her signature. 

“She would use the kitchen and living room — that was about it,” Owens previously testified of how she found the 2014 will. “So, when I got to the sofa, I lifted up that far right cushion and there was three notebooks there.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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