Colorado Probate Blog - Wade Ash Woods Hill & Farley, P.C.

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Aretha Franklin's Funky Wills

In May, three hand-written wills were found hidden in Aretha Franklin’s Detroit area home. Her family and lawyers previously thought she had died intestate. Two hand-written wills dated 2010 were found in a locked cabinet and third hand-written will dated 2014 was found under a couch in Ms. Franklin’s living room. The wills are difficult to follow. (Click here for example.) All three documents have been offered for probate as valid holographic wills. There is some question whether they are valid under Michigan law.

After discovering the three wills, the personal representative niece, Sabrina Garret Owens, shared the wills with Ms. Franklin’s heirs who disagree as to the validity and contents of the documents. Ms. Owens, as personal representative, has requested the Michigan court to determine the validity of the wills and their dispositive terms. At least two of Franklin’s sons are contesting the newly discovered wills and a hearing about whether the wills are valid is scheduled for June 12th.

The 2014 holographic will nominates her son, Kecalf Franklin, as executor. Meanwhile, there are several pending movie contracts about Ms.Franklin’s life. There is also an audit by the IRS on Ms.Franklin’s tax returns and several other litigation cases which had been filed to recover money stolen from Ms. Franklin’s bank account.

No doubt, Ms. Franklin, like the singer Prince,could have used a good estate planning lawyer to avoid costly litigation and taxes. The estate of singer Prince, who died three years ago, has still not been settled. Ms. Franklin’s and Prince’s estates point to the fact that a proper estate plan can avoid unnecessary financial expense for the family after death.

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