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A valid will to Aretha Franklin’s multi-million dollar estate was found in the stars couch after her death in 2014. This new will was recently deemed valid by a Michigan Jury.The legal battle over two handwritten versions of the late Queen of Soul’s final wishes unfolded over a two-day trial, with her children pitted against each other.The attorneys representing two of Franklin’s sons argued against their half-brother Ted White, who was accused of wanting to disinherit them.

The verdict, delivered on Tuesday, marks the end of a nearly five-year-long family dispute.

After Franklin passed away in August 2018 from pancreatic cancer, it was widely believed that she had not left behind a will outlining the distribution of her approximately $6 million (£4.6 million) worth of real estate, cash, gold records, furs, and music copyrights. However, nine months later, her niece Sabrina Owens, who served as the estate’s executor at the time, discovered two distinct sets of handwritten documents at Franklin’s residence in Detroit.

The first version, dated June 2010, was found inside a locked desk drawer, alongside record contracts and other paperwork.The second version, dated March 2014, was discovered within a spiral notebook containing Franklin’s doodles, tucked beneath the cushions of the living room sofa.

In Pontiac, a group of six jurors was given the responsibility of determining the validity of the latter document as a will. They reached a verdict in less than an hour.

The central point of contention revolves around the differences between the two documents regarding the inheritance of the soul superstar’s four children.

According to the now-validated will, three of Franklin’s sons would evenly divide her music royalties and bank funds, while her youngest child, Kecalf, and his children would inherit her primary residence—a gated mansion valued at $1.2 million (£928,000).

On the other hand, the 2010 document suggests a more equal distribution of Franklin’s assets but imposes a requirement that Kecalf and another son, Edward, must pursue business education and obtain a certificate or degree to benefit from the estate.

Kecalf and Edward argue that the newer document nullifies the intentions expressed in the older one, whereas their half-brother, Ted, disputes this claim.

During the trial, Kecalf testified that his mother often conducted business while sitting on the couch, making it seem plausible to him that a will would be found there.

In the closing arguments, Kecalf’s lawyer, Charles McKelvie, emphasized that the manner in which the notebook was discovered should be deemed inconsequential.

“You can leave your will on the kitchen counter,” McKelvie stated. “It’s still your will.”

Craig Smith, Edward’s attorney, pointed out the opening line of the document, “To whom it may concern and being of sound mind, I write my will and testimony,” to argue that their mother was conveying her wishes from beyond the grave. Smith alleged, that Teddy wants the entirety of the estate, cutting out both his brothers.

Ted, who served as his mother’s touring guitarist, stated during the trial that Franklin would have written a will in a conventional and legal manner rather than using freehand.

His attorney, Kurt Olson, highlighted that the 2010 will was securely locked away in the house rather than hidden under the cushions.

Clarence, Franklin’s oldest child, resides in assisted housing and is under guardianship, but he was not involved in the dispute.As per a pre-trial agreement reached between Clarence’s brothers and his guardian, he will receive an undisclosed portion of the estate.

Research indicates that over 70% of Black Americans lack wills, partly due to deep-rooted mistrust in the US legal system and concerns regarding the confiscation of Black-owned properties.

Resolving estate disputes for other renowned musicians like Prince and James Brown took several years. Initially estimated at $80 million, Franklin’s fortune at the time of her death has significantly diminished due to recent valuations and unpaid taxes over the years.

Nicholas Papasifakis, Franklin’s current personal representative, has expressed his commitment to follow the court’s decision and appropriately distribute her assets. After the verdict, Kecalf Franklin, outside the courtroom, expressed his great satisfaction, claiming he was just happy his Mothers wishes to be honoured.

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