Just a doodle?

July 14, 2023

A five-year legal battle ended between the Franklin family earlier this week as a judge ruled that the handwritten will stuffed down the side of Aretha Franklin’s sofa was the valid one.


As is well documented many cases we see and deal with daily involve siblings and in this high-profile case a brotherly dispute is at the core.


The details

At the time of Aretha’s death in 2018 it was thought that there was no will at all, however her niece later discovered a 2010 document found in a desk drawer and the later (now valid) 2014 will, a handwritten note found down the sofa.


The 2010 piece distributed the estate evenly between the four siblings, with a caveat that two of the four children (Kecalf and Edward) would need to take a ‘business class and get a certificate of degree’ in order to benefit from the estate.


However, the 2014 will distributes music royalties and bank funds evenly, but the younger son (Kecalf) would inherit Aretha’s primary residence worth $1.2million.


There has been an ongoing dispute in the manner that the eldest son Ted has been accused of wanting to disinherit his two brothers.


This week the court saw Kecalf and Edward argue that the 2014 will revokes the 2010 document – and they succeeded.


Our thoughts


Eleanor Stenson, one of our Partners at IDR comments on the case.


The law in the UK permits a Testator to prepare his Will himself – there is no obligation to use a lawyer or will writer to do so. However, without the benefit of legal advice they rarely meet all the requisite formalities for it to be either valid or fit for purpose in administering their estate. In addition, as we have seen in Aretha Franklin’s estate, they can be the source of expensive and stressful litigation between beneficiaries who are trying to secure an inheritance. The probate Courts in the USA tend to be more quick to resolve challenges such as this but in every case there is either a valid Will or there isn’t and invariably some of the individuals involved will lose out to some degree. It can only be hoped that for all those involved, that they are able to achieve some closure. This presents a lesson in doing what you can to avoid disputes after you’ve gone and a reminder to register any Will so that your family don’t have to hunt through furniture to find it…


Tune in to Times Radio on Friday 14th July at 1.45pm and listen to Eleanor discuss this topic on the Libby Purves show.