“Handwritten Papers” Found In Couch Declared A Real Will By Court

  • Only one out of three Americans have an estate plan.
  • Of those people, about 40% say they won’t make one until their life is in danger.
  • Aretha Franklin didn’t have a will in place.
  • A jury has ruled a handwritten will suffices.

(NewsReady.com) – In 2023, Caring.com conducted a survey to find out how many Americans have planned for their eventual death. It found that two out of three people have yet to write any type of estate planning document. That means when they pass away, there will not be any roadmap for their relatives or the courts to follow to decide how their assets should be split.

One might expect a wealthy or famous person to have all of that worked out years in advance. Apparently, that wasn’t the case with Aretha Franklin. Now a court has issued a decision about a set of handwritten notes.

Good Enough

Franklin, known as the “Queen of Soul,” died in 2018 without an official will on file. When she passed away, there were handwritten papers locked in a cabinet at her suburban Detroit home that were dated 2010. Then in 2019, another handwritten document was discovered shoved into her sofa cushions with a 2014 date on them.

Franklin’s sons are currently locked in a battle over her $6-million estate. Her sons, Edward and Kecalf Franklin, believe the will from 2014 should be honored, while her other son, Ted White II, thinks the 2010 document is the real will.

An Oakland County, Michigan, Probate Court jury recently heard arguments in the case. Charles McKelvie, the attorney for Kecalf and Edward, argued that just because something is found in sofa cushions doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. White’s attorney, Kurt Olson, claimed the documents locked away were more significant.

The Panel’s Decision

On Tuesday, July 11, the panel deliberated for just under an hour and came back with a decision that the 2014 document is a valid Michigan will.

Olson said his client would “live with it” after the decision was handed down.

The will dated 2014 named Kecalf the executor of the estate instead of White, who was named the executor in the 2010 document. Both documents say her home should go to Kecalf and his children. The house has increased in value significantly since Franklin died. The newer will also did away with a previous requirement that Edward and Kecalf would have to receive business degrees or certificates before benefiting from their mom’s estate. Both also specify her oldest son, Clarence Franklin, who has special needs, is to continue being cared for.

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