Aretha Franklin’s Sons Battle Over Late Singer’s Estate
The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin passed away in August 2018, leaving behind a net worth of $80 million, a multimillion-dollar real estate portfolio, and an enviable collection of personal belongings. However, her family was not united in the task of executing her wills and following through with her final wishes.
The Dispute Over the Will
The Queen of Soul’s estate has since been under dispute and legal wrangling between her four sons. The first will of Franklin, supposedly written in 2010, named her eldest son, Clarence Franklin, as the executor of her estate. However, in 2019, three handwritten wills were discovered in Franklin’s home in Detroit. Two of these wills were from 2010 and one from 2014. The documents named her youngest son, Kecalf Franklin as the executor of her estate.
This sparked a legal battle between Clarence Franklin and Kecalf Franklin that has been ongoing for two years. The parties have been in court arguing for control over the estate, a process that has been protracted and expensive.
The Legal Battle Between the Family
The Franklin estate dispute has been called one of the most contentious probate court cases in Michigan’s recent history. Proceedings began in 2019, and the litigation surrounding the estate is not yet over. The estate has been estimated to have generated more than $14 million since Franklin’s death, including $8.8 million in tribute concert proceeds, which are separate from her music licensing royalties. However, because of the legal issues, none of this money has been distributed to the heirs.
The legal process, with its inherent complexities and formalities, had fractured relations between Franklin’s sons, with one side of the family pitted against the other. Two of Franklin’s other sons, Edward Franklin and Ted White Jr., have taken sides with their elder brother, Clarence, who has been trying to maintain control of his late mother’s assets. Meanwhile, Kecalf and his cousin Sabrina Owens have tried to assume control. It is no secret that the dispute hasn’t been pretty.
The Motivation Behind the Battle
The conflict between the brothers and cousins has been fueled by money, with each party eager to get as much control over the estate as possible. However, it is not just a matter of financial gain, but rather a power struggle, where both sides seek to control their mother’s legacy.
The Franklin estate not only comprises of financial assets but also personal property, including her legendary musical catalog. The estate encompasses physical assets such as intellectual property, master recordings, as well as tens of thousands of personal belongings like designer clothing, jewelry, and signed documents.
The Repercussions of the Battle
The consequences of the ongoing court battle are impactful, with one of the most significant being that the delay has halted commissioning essential Franklin biopics, documentaries, and other projects. The delay in such projects means that they may run into problems with rights clearance issues and resulting lawsuits.
Another repercussion of the estate battle is that there is no transparency and communication between the heirs and the estate’s administrators regarding essential decisions. As the inheritance remains in limbo, the estate is gradually losing value, and heirs are deprived of their rightful share.
Lessons to Learn from this Case
It’s essential to understand how the dispute that ensues after the demise of a family member can go south, leading to years of litigation and family tension. It’s crucial to have all documents in order, leaving no room for doubts, misunderstandings, and to accurately convey your intentions and wishes.
If you are in a position to be an estate executor, you should communicate meet with the heirs, create a clear will and a testimony, choose third-party professionals, and be proactive in communicating with all family members involved.
Aretha Franklin had a unique voice and pioneered the R&B genre, making her a legend. However, the dispute between her sons has been unnecessarily protracted, causing inconvenience and acrimony in the family. Hopefully, this case will serve as a reminder to everyone that disagreements can be costly and harmful. The takeaway from this case is that families need to plan adequately to ensure that the process of estate management is done with as much respect and decency as possible, ensuring that the dearly departed’s legacy gets celebrated and remembered.