Aretha Franklin’s Handwritten Will—Found Underneath Her Couch Cushion—Is Valid, a Michigan Jury Declares

The decision paves the way for the distribution of the legendary singer's estate, including music royalties.

Aretha Franklin at Radio City Music Hall in 2017. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival.

A handwritten will found under the cushions of Aretha Franklin’s couch has been declared valid by a Michigan jury. The “Queen of Soul” died in 2018 at the age of 76.

The six-person jury in Oakland County Probate Court deliberated for less than an hour to determine that the 2014 handwritten will is valid, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Judge Jennifer Callaghan will now have to determine if the handwritten document supersedes an official will from 2010, previously determined to be valid, in total or only in part.

The dispute between the two versions of the will has pitted Franklin’s son Ted White II, who played in his mother’s band under the professional name Teddy Richards and favors the 2010 document, against his brothers Kecalf Franklin and Edward Franklin.

“We won, thank you Lord,” Kecalf Franklin wrote in a Instagram post after the decision.

After the decision, Richards shared recordings of a 2018 voicemail of his mother revoking all prior wills.

“Despite the court’s decision not to allow this recording, it is her true intent,” he contested.

Lawyers for Richards had argued that the 2010 will was under lock and key, unlike the handwritten will found in the cushions of a couch. Lawyers for his brothers argued the 2014 will was still valid because it was signed by the singer.

“I’m very, very happy. I just wanted my mother’s wishes to be adhered to,” Kecalf Franklin said after the decision, the Associated Press reported. “We just want to exhale right now. It’s been a long five years for my family, my children.”

The main differences between the two wills pertain to a provision in the 2014 will that would give Aretha’s home in Bloomfield Hills to Kecalf Franklin and her grandchildren.

The 2010 will called for an even split of Franklin’s entire estate—which encompasses properties, cars, furs, instruments, and jewelry, as well as royalties from her music—but mandated that Kecalf and Edward take business classes or get a degree to benefit from it. The 2014 will did not have that stipulation.

Despite the feud in court, the brothers denied that there was bad blood between them, the New York Times reported, with Richards stating they were “as close as three old men can be.”

“I love my brother with all my heart,” Kecalf said of Richards.

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