Aretha Franklin’s Handwritten Will Found in Sofa Ruled Valid in Court After Family Dispute

The legendary singer died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76 on Aug. 16, 2018

Questions regarding Aretha Franklin’s estate will finally be answered thanks to a handwritten will found under a sofa cushion.

The legendary singer died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 76 on Aug. 16, 2018. Franklin was without a will at the time of death, leaving her sons Edward and Kecalf Franklin and Ted White Jr in the middle of a dispute.

The handwritten will was presented in a probate court trial in Michigan on Monday along with another handwritten document found in a locked cabinet in May 2019, The New York Times reports. According to CNN, the documents were discovered in Franklin’s home in Detroit by her niece Sabrina Owens.

While neither document was prepared by a lawyer, CNN reports one was dated March 31, 2014, while the other was from 2010. Both documents called for the brothers to share income from their mother’s music and copyrights.

Lawyers for Kecalf and Edward favored the 2014 document, according to the Associated Press. The outlet reported that Franklin’s fourth son Clarence lives under legal guardianship and did not participate in the trial.

The AP reported that the later document allowed Kecalf and her grandchildren to inherit Franklin’s home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. It also had the removal of a provision from the 2010 document which said that Kecalf and Edward “must take business classes and get a certificate or a degree” to benefit from the estate.

Attorneys for Kecalf and Edward stated in their closing arguments on Tuesday that the fact that the 2014 document was found in a sofa cushion did not make it any less valid.

“You can take your will and leave it on the kitchen counter. It’s still your will,” Charles McKelvie told the jury, per the Associated Press. The first line of the 2014 document was also used in the trial by another of their lawyers, Craig Smith. He told the jury, per the outlet, “Says right here: ‘This is my will.’ She’s speaking from the grave, folks.”

After the jury ruled in favor of the will from 2014, the Associated Press reports that Franklin’s grandchildren stepped forward to hug Kecalf and Edward.

“I’m very, very happy. I just wanted my mother’s wishes to be adhered to,” said Kecalf, according to the Associated Press. “We just want to exhale right now. It’s been a long five years for my family, my children.”