There's a New Wrinkle in Aretha Franklin's Estate Battle

A 4th will emerges, dated not long before her 2018 death but typed and unsigned
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 10, 2021 9:35 AM CST
Updated Mar 14, 2021 9:35 AM CDT
New Crimp in Aretha Franklin Estate Battle: a 4th Will
This July 26, 2010, file photo shows performer Aretha Franklin in Philadelphia.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Remember when it was thought Aretha Franklin didn't leave a will behind when she died, only for three handwritten wills to emerge shortly thereafter? Add a fourth one to the pile—although this one isn't handwritten and doesn't have her signature on it. On Tuesday, the Detroit Free Press got its hands on the latest document to emerge, a 22-page typed version drawn up by the Dickinson Wright law firm in 2018, the same year the singer died at age 76. It is unclear why it's just surfacing now. This will is ostensibly the most recent of the four, as two of the handwritten wills were dated 2010, while the third was said to be from 2014. The previous documents had differing directives on what to do with Franklin's estate and have spurred a battle among her heirs.

The new will, filed to Michigan's Oakland County Probate Court by son Ted White II, provides for most of Franklin's assets to go to her three youngest sons, while a trust fund would be set up for her eldest son, Clarence, who has special needs. The three younger sons would also serve as personal representatives for the estate, according to the document. The filing is said to include correspondence between Franklin and the law firm from late 2017 that includes her handwritten notes. A previous jury trial had been set up to determine which of the other three wills was valid, though that trial has been put off due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, an attorney has been appointed as the estate's temporary personal representative. Just last week, Franklin's estate came to an agreement with the IRS on millions of dollars of back taxes that the singer owed, per the New York Times. (More Aretha Franklin stories.)

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