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A jury validates Aretha Franklin's handwritten will

Aretha Franklin   -  
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A document handwritten by singer Aretha Franklin and found in her couch after her 2018 death is a valid Michigan will, a jury said Tuesday, a critical turn in a dispute that has turned her sons against each other.

It’s a victory for Kecalf (KELF') Franklin and Edward Franklin, whose lawyers had argued that papers dated 2014 should override a 2010 will that was discovered around the same time in a locked cabinet at the Queen of Soul’s home in suburban Detroit.

The jury deliberated less than an hour after a brief trial that started Monday.

"I think that it's a great thing. I think that she (Aretha Franklin) would be very happy. She's proud right now that her wishes have been adhered to," Kecalf Franklin said.

Aretha Franklin did not leave behind a formal, typewritten will when she died five years ago at age 76. But both documents, with scribbles and hard-to-decipher passages, suddenly emerged in 2019 when a niece scoured the home for records.

In closing arguments, lawyers for two of Franklin's sons said there’s nothing legally significant about finding the handwritten papers in a notebook in her couch.

Kecalf and Edward have teamed up against brother Ted White II, who favored the 2010 will. White’s attorney noted the 2010 will was under lock and key. He said it’s much more significant than papers found in a couch.

Franklin’s estate managers have been paying bills, settling millions in tax debts and generating income through music royalties and other intellectual property. The will dispute, however, has been unfinished business.

There are differences between the 2010 and 2014 versions, though they both appear to indicate that Franklin’s four sons would share income from music and copyrights.

But under the 2014 will, Kecalf Franklin and grandchildren would get his mother’s main home in Bloomfield Hills, which was valued at $1.1 million when she died but is worth much more today.

"We just want to exhale right now. It's been a long five years for my family, my children. And we just want to exhale, truthfully," Kecalf Franklin said.

The older will said 53-year-old Kecalf and 64-year-old Edward Franklin "must take business classes and get a certificate or a degree” to benefit from the estate. That provision is not in the 2014 version.

White, who played guitar with Aretha Franklin, testified against the 2014 will.

Franklin was a global star for decades, known especially for hits like “Think,” “I Say a Little Prayer” and “Respect.”

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