Aretha Franklin’s estate goes under court control for now, but family squabbles surface

The Queen of Soul is said to have left an estate worth $80 million, but in a suburban Detroit courtroom, a battle over how it should be administered is emerging

Aretha Franklin
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 19: Aretha Franklin performs onstage during the "Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives" Premiere Concert during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall on April 19, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Nearly a year after her death, the future of the Aretha Franklin’s estate is at the center of a power struggle between the late singer’s family and their attorneys.

The hearing, which had nine lawyers battling over the future management of the estate ended with Oakland County, Mich., Probate Court judge Jennifer Callaghan placing control under court supervision, the Detroit Free Press reported.

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That means for now the court will execute decisions on behalf of Franklin’s estate, which includes property sale. Despite the current legal status, Franklin’s niece Sabrina Owens will continue to be the estate’s personal representative.

Franklin, who died at age 76 last August, left an estate said to be worth as much as $80 million, according to Forbes, including real estate holding and the rights to her original compositions.

The Free Press reports the debate over estate control is believed to have increased tensions in the family, made evident by arguments made by lawyers during the hearing.

For example, an attorney for Franklin’s youngest son, Kecalf, said he should have more input in decisions of the estate, while Owens authority should be “restricted.”

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But Owens’ lawyer David Bennett shot back that Kecalf does not have the “capacity to be [the estate’s] personal representative. Further, the guardian for Franklin’s oldest son, Clarence, who has special needs,’ said Kecalf has never demonstrated any real ability to support himself or “act as a fiduciary.”

Judge Callaghan also approved handwriting analysis of the three wills that were found in Franklin’s Detroit home and are said to be written in longhand by her. Erich Speckin, a handwriting analysis professional hired by Kecalf, said for him to properly inspect the notes he would need three hours, using a microscope and electrostatic device.

After her death, it was initially believed that Franklin died intestate, or without having left a will, which according to Michigan law would throw control of her estate up to a court’s decision.

Prior to the court proceedings more than $350,000 from the estate was split among her four sons and an additional $178,000 was reported stolen in a bank fraud months before she died.

READ MORE: Aretha Franklin’s death halted probe into $200,000 theft

Bennett revealed the recently released Amazing Grace concert documentary has added $1.1 million to the estate. He also shared that plans for a biopic that would star Jennifer Hudson set for a 2020 release have hit a roadblock due to negotiations.

In a statement to the Free Press, Kecalf Franklin stated the family is “in a battle to defend and protect this legacy against those who wish to disrespect, slander and exploit it.”