Real estate awarded to Aretha Franklin's sons after row over couch note

The handwritten note from 2014 was found between couch cushions and has been ruled as a legal will under Michigan law.

Judge awards real estate to Aretha Franklin’s sons following row over validity of will found in couch PA Media

A US judge overseeing the estate of singer Aretha Franklin has awarded real estate to the late star’s sons, citing a handwritten will from 2014 that was found between couch cushions.

The decision came four months after a Detroit-area jury said the document was a valid will under Michigan law, despite scribbles and many hard-to-read passages.

Franklin had signed it and put a smiley face in the letter “A.”

The papers will override a handwritten will from 2010 that was found at Franklin’s suburban Detroit home around the same time in 2019, the judge said.

Attorney Charles McKelvie delivers closing arguments on the second day of a jury trial over Aretha Franklin's wills at Oakland County Probate CourtPA Media

One of her sons, Kecalf Franklin, will get that property, which was valued at $1.1m (£866,000) 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 favoured the 2010 will, was given a house in Detroit, though it was sold by the estate for $300,000 (£236,000) before the duelling wills had emerged.

“Teddy is requesting the sale proceeds,” Charles McKelvie, a lawyer for Kecalf Franklin, said on 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.

Judge Jennifer Callaghan listens as attorney Charles McKelvie, left, delivers closing arguments during a jury trial over Aretha Franklin's wills at Oakland County Probate CourtPA Media

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 £1m (£788,000), is likely to be sold and the proceeds shared by four sons.

The judge said the 2014 will did not clearly state who should get it.

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

There is 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.

Franklin was a global star for decades, known especially for hits in the late 1960s such as Think, I Say A Little Prayer and Respect.

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