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A judge awarded Aretha Franklin’s sons the singer’s real estate after reviewing a handwritten 2014 will that was found between couch cushions, Associated Press reports.
The new decision comes four months after a jury decided that the document was valid despite being hard to read. The will was signed with the letter “A” and a smiley face. The handwritten document overrides a will from 2010 that was found in 2019.
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The decision was a major victory for Franklin’s youngest son, Kecalf, who had been arguing in favor of the document’s validity as it seemed to suggest the Queen of Soul — who did not leave a formal will — wanted him to assume control over her estate.
Kecalf had the support of his brother and Franklin’s second eldest son, Edward. However, Kecalf’s efforts were opposed by Franklin’s third son, Ted White, as well as the guardian for her eldest son, Clarence, who has special needs.
Kecalf will inherit a $1.1 million property in the suburbs of Detroit, while Ted White II was given another house that was sold by the estate for $300,000 before the wills emerged. Edward was also awarded a separate property thanks to the 2014 will.
“This was a significant step forward. We’ve narrowed the remaining issues,” Charles McKelvie, an attorney for Kecalf, told the AP.
The document discovered in the couch (dated 2014) was one of two found in Franklin’s home in 2019, along with another 11-page document dated 2010. While all of Franklin’s sons agreed the 2010 document was a valid will, a contentious legal battle emerged over whether Franklin had actually signed the 2014 document, thus validating it so it would supersede the one from 2010.
While both documents appeared to indicate that Franklin wanted her four sons to split the income from her music and copyrights, there were some significantly different stipulations between the two. In the 2014 document, Franklin appeared to bequeath the $1.1 million home to Kecalf, while the 2010 will divided Franklin’s assets more evenly amongst her heirs.
Additionally, the 2010 doc included some conditions for Kecalf and Edward should they want to take control of Franklin’s estate: The two “must take business classes and get a certificate or a degree,” Franklin wrote at the time — conditions she did not include in the 2014 document.
Franklin owned a total of four homes. She died in 2018 of pancreatic cancer.
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