Aretha Franklin’s 4th, Unsigned, Will Discovered, From Year She Died

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Aretha Franklin via her Facebook page in 2014

When Aretha Franklin died on August 16, 2018, it appeared that she passed without leaving a will. The New York Times reported in its Aug. 23 edition, “According to Michigan law, the assets of an unmarried person who dies without a will are divided equally among their children. Ms. Franklin had been married twice, but was long since divorced.” Her sons — Clarence, Edward and KeCalf Franklin, and Ted White Jr. — listed themselves as “interested parties.”

Months later, no less than three handwritten wills were discovered in her home, one of which the Times described as being “under the couch cushions.”

Since then, the singing legend’s estate has been negotiating with the IRS with what the Detroit Free Press describes as a whopping “$7.8 million in unpaid income taxes, interest and penalties” that the Queen of Soul accrued between 2010-2017. The paper reported on March 1, 2021 that the two sides had agreed to a plan to both pay off the tax burden and give the sons some of the income from her estate.

“Since Franklin’s death,” the Free Press writes, “the estate has been steadily paying on the tax debt — and its ever-accruing interest — while formally appealing the agency’s claimed total.”

The arrangement, backdated to Jan. 1, calls for 45% of the singer’s posthumous income “from song royalties, licensing agreements and other money streams” to go to the IRS. 40% would go to an escrow account against taxes on future income. 15%, the paper notes, would be used to manage her estate. Her four sons would each get $50,000 immediately to be followed by quarterly cash payments.

The newspaper reports that the estate’s temporary lawyer, Reginald Turner, submitted the deal to the county judge, Jennifer S. Callahan, for approval while working in conjunction with the heirs’ ten attorneys.

On March 9, 2021, the Free Press reported that an unsigned draft of a fourth will had been discovered, drafted by a Detroit-area law firm in 2018, the year of Franklin’s death. The paper noted that the will was filed in county court by her son, Ted White Jr., who asked that it should reflect her final wishes.

From their fine reporting: According to the filing, Franklin had been working with the Dickinson Wright law firm in Troy since at least 2017 to prepare the will, until she “became too ill to continue to finish discussions on a few items.” The paper described it as a 22-page, typed document, plus a 2017 contract with the firm, signed by Franklin, and handwritten notes from her.

The paper confirms that most of her assets would be shared equally by sons Edward Franklin, Kecalf Franklin, and White, with a trust set up for her son, Clarence, who has special needs.

The confusion caused by the various wills is said to have caused considerable contention among Franklin’s heirs. Kecalf Franklin has argued that he should be the sole representative for the estate. The Free Press reported that an attorney for Clarence Franklin has argued that Kecalf Franklin has not “displayed any ability or inclination to support himself and lacks the financial knowledge or ability to act as a fiduciary.”

In 2019, the Free Press reported that the Franklin estate earned $1.1 million from the release of the 2019 documentary, Amazing Grace.

National Geographic is presenting Genius: Aretha, a four-part anthology series, which premieres on March 21. The program stars Academy Award nominee Cynthia Erivo as the legend.

A biopic, Respect, starring Jennifer Hudson, was originally set for release in August 2020. It was delayed, as was an elaborate box set from Rhino, due to the pandemic. Both are now expected to be released in August of this year.

Related: Tributes poured in following Franklin’s 2018 death

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9 Comments so far

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  1. TimothyFlyte
    #1 TimothyFlyte 2 March, 2021, 02:28

    So 85% to the government? 15 % to manage the estate ( lawyers & accountants ) and the 4 sons get $200,000…..? So not only does the government rip you off when you’re alive, but in this case, in death too?
    This is just so sad. The sons will get quarterly payments? Of what? It seems messed up.

    Reply this comment
    • Jacqueline
      Jacqueline 2 March, 2021, 11:25

      Death and Taxes, Taxes and Death. The Prince estate is STILL in limbo. No will but the company handling it had already received 53 million for lawyers and what not. His family have received a small portion.

      Reply this comment
      • Texastoast
        Texastoast 8 March, 2021, 12:05

        All could have been avoided if he’d been responsible enough to set up an irrevocable trust.

        Reply this comment
  2. Bigtman
    #2 Bigtman 2 March, 2021, 12:25

    Should have paid her taxes like the rest of us. No one likes it but that’s the way it is.

    Reply this comment
    • Nesie
      Nesie 2 March, 2021, 13:09

      Hmm, Well. I love Aretha and I love her music. The IRS maybe false. She paid something. I praying that this is solved soon.
      Respect her sons at least. I owe school loans. Never earned enough to pay baçk. I will pay what I can. Before I die. Sad.

      Reply this comment
    • Just Jamie
      Just Jamie 2 March, 2021, 16:06

      Shortly after her death it was publicized that the attorneys were trying to get payors to reissue numerous royalties checks that she never even cashed. She had money that she never even claimed, according to the report.

      Reply this comment
  3. Lady T
    #3 Lady T 3 March, 2021, 04:14

    Them lawyers, accountants and even her broke ass husband, won’t her money . She is and will always be the legend. And f### the judges and the IRS they just be making up numbers in money. If she owed all this money . How did she go so long and not broke back then. Life and greedy people.

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  4. G.man
    #4 G.man 4 March, 2021, 23:33

    Ever wonder why the accountants never get punished?

    Reply this comment
  5. Texastoast
    #5 Texastoast 8 March, 2021, 12:01

    Completely irresponsible on her part, and no excuse for her not making a will and paying her taxes. Her son Clarence has disabilities and she should have set up a trust for him, and made arrangements for the rest of her estate. The mayhem after her death could have been avoided.

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