PONTIAC, Mich. (FOX 2) - After a five-year legal battle, a significant milestone has been achieved in the dispute over the Queen of Soul's estate.
An Oakland County judge overseeing the estate of Aretha Franklin awarded real estate to her sons on Monday, citing a handwritten will from 2014 that was found between couch cushions.
Divvying up three of Franklin’s four houses, her cars, money, and other assets – the decision came four months after a jury said the 2014 document was valid under Michigan law, and will override a 2010 will discovered after her death in a locked cabinet at Franklin's home in suburban Detroit.
Frenaklin died from pancreatic cancer in 2018 and did not have a formal will, triggering a feud between three of her four children.
"Aretha didn’t expect that there would be 5 years of litigation between her four boys over which of those wills hanging out there was the right one," said estate planning attorney Mark Frankel. "And had she, in 2014, managed to get to counsel and have that drafted, it would have been clearer as to what was going on and there wouldn’t have been all these issues."
One of her sons, Kecalf Franklin, will get the Bloomfield Hills property, which was valued at $1.1 million 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 favored the 2010 will, was given a house in Detroit, though it was sold by the estate for $300,000 before the dueling wills had emerged.
"Teddy is requesting the sale proceeds," Charles McKelvie, an attorney for Kecalf Franklin, said Tuesday.
Under the 2014 will, the judge awarded a third son, Edward Franklin, the Bloomfield Township property.
All other assets will be divided among Franklin's family by the estate’s conservator.
Additionally, the sons will share the money brought in from Franklin’s music and copyrights; they will also have to support Franklin's oldest child, Clarence Franklin, who lives under guardianship.
Frankel said so much drama could have been avoided with the proper documents in place from the start.
"Despite the cost, it can be really very helpful to have someone who is a professional and is trained to do this – help to make sure that your wishes are fulfilled."
AP News contributed to this report.