Aretha Franklin’s sons disagree over who should manage her estate after three new handwritten wills were found at her home.
While Sabrina Owens, Aretha’s niece and an administrator at the University of Michigan, has been appointed executor of her estate, attorneys for Theodore White II last week told a Michigan judge in a court filing that he should be named co-executor, along with Owens.
It was originally thought that Aretha hadn’t left any documents declaring her last wishes and how she wanted her assets dividing when she passed away in August 2018, but lawyers recently revealed they uncovered three handwritten wills in her Detroit home.
According to her estate’s attorney, David Bennett, two wills dated from 2010, were found in a locked cabinet after a key to the dresser was located, while the most recent one, which was written in 2014, was found under cushions in the ‘Natural Woman’ hitmaker’s living room.
Some of the writing – which includes notes in the margins and scratched-out text – has proven to be hard to decipher but appear to give her assets to various members of her family.
In a separate court filing, the “Respect” singer’s son, Kecalf Franklin, previously claimed the 2014 will stated his mother wanted him to serve as representative of the estate.
A 2010 document shows that Aretha named White and Owens as executors but in the 2014 document, their names were crossed out and Aretha chose Cunningham.
White has said he does not believe Cunningham crossed out the names.
On August 6, a judge will consider a request to have a handwriting expert examine the documents.
Meanwhile, Cunningham has asked for a temporary restraining order to be granted against Owens to stop her from making decisions about the estate.
According to TMZ, he claims that she sold property and personal items and also transferred a vehicle to her own name.
He further alleges that she “received an unspecified amount of money on behalf of the state”.
Don Wilson – a lawyer based in Los Angeles who worked for Aretha for 30 years – previously claimed he had spent a long time trying to persuade his client to get her affairs in order.
He said: “I tried to convince her that she should do not just a will but a trust while she was still alive.
“She never told me, ‘No, I don’t want to do one.’ She understood the need. It just didn’t seem to be something she got around to.”
Mr. Wilson added: “She was a private person.”