Aretha Franklin's will overturned by note found under sofa cushions

The ruling is a victory for her sons, Kecalf and Edward Franklin.

Aretha Franklin’s will overturned by note found under sofa cushions in Michigan court PA Media

A document handwritten by singer Aretha Franklin and found under her sofa cushions after her death in 2018 is a valid Michigan will, a jury has ruled.

The decision is a critical turn in a dispute that has turned her sons against one another.

The Queen of Soul died in 2018 aged 76 without a formal, typewritten will, and five years later her legacy is still tied up in a Detroit court after a niece found different sets of handwritten papers at her home.

The ruling is a victory for Kecalf 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 singer’s home in suburban Detroit.

Kecalf Franklin (left) said he was ‘very, very happy’ with the ruling.PA Media

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

After the verdict was read, Aretha Franklin’s grandchildren stepped forward to hug Kecalf and Edward.

Kecalf Franklin said: “I’m very, very happy. I just wanted my mother’s wishes to be adhered to.

“We just want to exhale right now. It’s been a long five years for my family, my children.”

Franklin’s estate managers have been paying bills, settling millions in tax debts and generating income through music royalties and other intellectual property.

A smiley face along with Aretha Franklin’s signature in 2014 on a document shown to the jury.PA Media

The will dispute, however, has been unfinished business, until now.

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 US (£850,000) when she died but is worth much more today.

Aretha Franklin's granddaughter Grace Franklin, 17, smiles while embracing her family members.PA Media

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

Ted White II, a son who played guitar with Aretha Franklin, testified against the 2014 will.

“With all the time I spent working with her administratively… every other document that she ever signed was something that was done conventionally and legally” and with assistance from a lawyer, the 60-year-old told the jury.

Edward Franklin and his wife Tonja leave court.PA Media

He did not immediately comment after the verdict.

Kecalf Franklin sat near Mr White during the trial, but they did not appear to speak to each other.

Outside the court, when asked if there is a rift, Kecalf Franklin said: “I love my brother with all my heart.”

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

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