Judge allows handwriting expert to examine hand-written Aretha Franklin wills

Famed singer Aretha Franklin has been dead for more than a year, but her name hasn't left news headlines.

A judge has agreed to allow a handwriting expert to examine wills discovered in couch cushions after Aretha Franklin's death.

During a hearing Tuesday, Oakland County Probate Judge Jennifer Callaghan also placed administration of Franklin's estate under court supervision. That means the court will have a role in major decisions about her estate, including the sale of property.

A handwritten 2014 document shows Franklin apparently wanted her son, Kecalf Franklin, to serve as the representative of her estate, which might be worth millions.  Erich Speckin was hired by the son to verify his mother's handwriting. Specken told Callaghan it will take him about three hours to analyze the documents.

Lawyers for Franklin's estate have said "there is no basis" to believe Kecalf Franklin has the skills to administer the estate.

Her estate, potentially worth millions was plunged into ambiguity upon the discovery of a trio of hand-written wills. Those papers are at the center of a legal battle involving family members who believe they have rightful ownership over some of their late-relatives fortune.

Now, attorneys and an Oakland County judge are trying to sort out what belongs where and to whom. On Tuesday, many expressed their frustrations in an Oakland County courthouse.

"August 16, 2018, Ms. Franklin died. We're here a year later, why don't we have any information," vented one woman.

What Franklin's estate is worth is only part of the question however. According to the IRS, she also owed millions in back taxes - complicating what is legal and who could get it.

"The IRS dispute is basically over three items: Ms. Franklin got money from going on her concert tours," said an attorney during the hearing. "There's also the issue of all her expenses on the concert tours, which they are examining and disputing."

Fate of Aretha Franklin's fortune remains uncertain, IRS debt looms
Judge deciding today if 3 found, hand-written wills of Aretha Franklin's are valid

The attorney further said officials are disputing whether or not the singer should have been taking income withholding on all of the people going on tour with her.

At one point during the hearing, the judge discussed proceedings with nine other attorneys. In the end, the judge asserted her own control over the estate - essentially giving the court a role in what happens to Franklin's possession.

After Franklin's death last August her heirs agreed to put the estate in the hands of Franklin's niece, Sabrina Owens, who is a university administrator. Attorneys for Theodore White II said in a court filing that White should be named co-executor, along with Owens.

White and Owens' names appeared in a 2010 handwritten will, but were crossed out in the 2014 document.

Franklin, aptly named the queen of soul, died at the age of 76 from pancreatic cancer in August, 2018. Her three handwritten wills were found in her home last May.

Further clarity will come on Monday Aug. 12, when mediations continue.

-The Associated Press contributed to this report-