Aretha Franklin’s wills problems persist

| Aug 22, 2019 | Wills |

Aretha Franklin left an unbelievable musical legacy, but her estate may be remembered for the problems caused by poor planning. A contentious will contest was on display at recent Oakland County probate hearing.

In a 3-hour complex and contentious hearing involving nine attorneys, the judge asserted more control and placed the estate’s administration under judicial administration. The court will play a significant role with many decisions such as the sale of its property. Ms. Franklin’s niece will continue to serve the estate’s personal representative.

The judge also granted approval of a handwriting expert to examine three wills that may have been drafted by Franklin found in her home earlier this year. The expert, hired by her son, testified that he will need to analyze the documents with equipment such as a microscope and electrostatic device.

Relatives continued to contest the appointment or scope of authority of the estate’s current executor during the hearing. There were claims that she did not provide current information or documents about the estate.

The executor was defended through arguments that she had to deal with a difficult situation left by a singer who never used an accounting system. There were claims that Ms. Franklin even kept $750,000 in uncashed checks in her purse for months. The IRS also filed suit and there may be other possible creditor claims.

Other revelations came out at the hearing. Over $350,000 was distributed by the estate to her four sons and $178,000 was stolen from Franklin through bank fraud before her death in August of 2018. The estate earned $1.1 million from the gospel documentary “Amazing Grace.”

But, negotiations over a planned movie starring Jennifer Hudson stalled over price. There have been other offers made for Ms. Franklin’s property and discussions about a museum display in Detroit. Former President Barack Obama asked for the hat worn by the singer at his first inauguration.

Non-celebrities can avoid financial and legal problems for their family by engaging in estate planning and executing important documents. An attorney can help with this planning and draft these documents.