Detroit Evening Report: Judge awards real estate to Aretha Franklin’s sons, citing handwritten will

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FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2008 file photo, Aretha Franklin performs during the 85th annual Christmas tree lighting at the New York Stock Exchange in New York.

FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2008 file photo, Aretha Franklin performs during the 85th annual Christmas tree lighting at the New York Stock Exchange in New York. In a decision made Monday, Nov. 28, 2023, Judge Jennifer Callaghan who is overseeing the estate of Aretha Franklin, assigned real estate to the late music superstar's sons, saying she was following the wishes of a 2014 handwritten will that was found in couch cushions.

A judge overseeing the estate of Aretha Franklin has ruled her property go to the late star’s sons, citing a handwritten will from 2014 that was found between couch cushions.

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The decision comes months after a Detroit-area jury said the document was a valid will under Michigan law, despite scribbles and many hard-to-read passages. The papers will override another handwritten will from 2010 that was found at her metro Detroit home around the same time in 2019, the judge said.

One of her sons, Kecalf Franklin, will get that property, which was valued at $1.1 million in 2018, but is now worth more. A lawyer described it as the “crown jewel” before trial last July.

Another son, Ted White II, who had favored the 2010 will, was given a house in Detroit, though it was sold by the estate for $300,000 before the dueling wills had emerged.

“Teddy is requesting the sale proceeds,” Charles McKelvie, an attorney for Kecalf Franklin, said Tuesday.

Judge Jennifer Callaghan awarded a third son, Edward Franklin, another property under the 2014 will.

Aretha Franklin had four homes when she died of pancreatic cancer in 2018 at the age of 76. The discovery of the two handwritten wills months after her death led to a dispute between the sons over what their mother wanted to do with her real estate and other assets.

One of the properties, worth more than $1 million, will likely be sold and the proceeds shared by four sons. The judge said the 2014 will didn’t clearly state who should get it.

“This was a significant step forward. We’ve narrowed the remaining issues,” McKelvie said of the estate saga.

There’s still a dispute over how to handle Aretha Franklin’s music assets, though the will appears to indicate that the sons would share any income. A status conference with the judge is set for January.

Reporting by Associated Press writer Ed White

Other headlines for Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023:

  • Following the passing of Dutch Girl Donuts founders and husband and wife team Gene and Lauren Timmer in 2021, the more than 70-year-old business will reopen under new ownership in 2024, the new owners confirmed.
  • The Friends of Rouge Park say the City of Detroit is not listening to their concerns about the plans to remove part of a nearly century-old oak grove to make way for the new Detroit Pistons-funded Brennon recreation center.
  • On one of the coldest days in Detroit this month, the Detroit Phoenix Center will host its annual One Night Without a Bed event beginning at 7 p.m. tonight at The Eastern, 3434 Russell St., Suite 501, Detroit.

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  • Tia Graham
    Tia Graham is a reporter and Weekend Edition Host for 101.9 WDET. She graduated from Michigan State University where she had the unique privilege of covering former President Barack Obama and his trip to Lansing in 2014.