×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Aretha Franklin Died Without a Will, Court Documents Show

Legendary singer Aretha Franklin died without leaving behind a will or trust, according to court documents filed by her sons that were cited by the Detroit Free Press.

In the document, her four sons list themselves as interested parties, and another document filed with the court and signed by her son Kecalf, and her estate attorney, David Bennett, check a box acknowledging the absence of a will, according to the report. The singer’s niece, Sabrina Owens, asked the court to appoint her as personal representative of the estate. A rep for the late singer did not immediately respond to Variety’s request for comment or confirmation.

Frankin died on Aug. 16 in her hometown of Detroit after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

“I was after her for a number of years to do a trust,” attorney Don Wilson, who was Franklin’s entertainment attorney for nearly 30 years, told the paper. “It would have expedited things and kept them out of probate, and kept things private.”

While Franklin did not preside over a business empire as vast and complex as that of Prince, who died in 2016 apparently without leaving a will, her holdings are likely substantial. Wilson said she retained ownership of her original composition, which include hit songs such as “Think” and “Rock Steady.” While Wilson said it’s impossible to place a value on her catalog, those songs and others were hits at the time of their release and will generate significant income in the months after her death.

Prince’s estate has been embroiled in long, complicated and costly legal battles over the ownership of his holdings, as multiple claims came forward before six heirs were determined (Prince was unmarried and had no children at the time of his death). Those heirs frequently split into two camps over business decisions, complicating an already complex process as the estate has worked to capitalize on the musician’s work and holdings in the years after his death. The disorder of Prince’s business affairs left his executors scrambling to cut deals before a nine-figure estate tax bill came due early in 2017, and one of those deals, a $31 million recorded-music pact with Universal, was later rescinded after disputes over ownership over some of the material.

By contrast, David Bowie, who died in 2016 after a long bout with cancer, had spent many years buttoning up his estate and catalog with a longtime business manager — even removing certain songs from his official catalog — and an orderly reissue campaign was already underway at the time of his death.

Under Michigan law, the assets of an unmarried person who dies without a will are divided equally among any children.

“I just hope [Franklin’s estate] doesn’t end up getting so hotly contested” as that of Ike Turner, Wilson said of another complicated case. “Any time they don’t leave a trust or will, there always ends up being a fight.”

“Nobody likes to give careful thought to their own demise,” he said.

Franklin’s funeral is scheduled for Aug. 31 at Greater Grace Temple in Detoir, following public viewings at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (Aug. 28-29) and New Bethel Baptist Church (Aug. 30).

 

 

More Music

  • Danny Bennett, Tony Bennett, Sir Lucian

    Verve President Danny Bennett Steps Down as UMG Restructures Jazz and Classical Divisions

    Verve Label Group president/CEO Danny Bennett has stepped down, Universal Music Group announced Thursday. Oversight of Verve will be taken over by Dickon Stainer, president/CEO of Universal Classics and Jazz, who will add the labels to a stable that already includes heading up Deutsche Grammophon and the Decca Label Group. The restructuring was cited by the [...]

  • Exclusive All RoundMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Lennon Stella's Post-'Nashville' Pop Video Shows 'Bitch'-iness Cuts Across Genders

    What happens when a Canadian country girl goes pop? America is finding out this year via Lennon Stella, the 19-year-old former co-star of TV’s “Nashville,” who signed to Barry Weiss’ Records imprint (which has a deal via Columbia Records) in the winter of 2018, and who this month released a stellar new song, “Bitch (Takes [...]

  • Members of the public mourn at

    Guy Oseary’s New Zealand Fundraiser Nears $150,000, Continues Raising Money

    In the wake of the horrific shootings at New Zealand mosques last week that killed some 49 people, Maverick chief Guy Oseary launched a GoFundMe campaign to “support those affected by this tragedy at this very difficult time,” and began it with an $18,000 donation. Boosted by donations from many celebrities — including Amy Schumer, [...]

  • Justin Carter Dead: Country Singer Dies

    Country Singer Justin Carter Dies After Accidental Shooting on Music Video Set

    Texas country music upstart Justin Carter has died from a gunshot wound, in an accident that took place while a gun was being as a prop for a music video being filmed in his apartment, according to reports out of Houston. Carter, 35, died Saturday, the same week he had signed a management deal and [...]

  • Karen O

    Karen O & Danger Mouse Talk ‘Lux Prima,’ Perform at New York Times Event

    “We’re gonna do one more song…” Karen O said at her and Danger Mouse’s performance and chat in New York Wednesday night, “… and then comes the hard part, which is talking about music.” She was probably inadvertently paraphrasing the age-old adage that attempting to write about music is like “dancing about architecture,” but the [...]

  • Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend Roger Daltrey,

    Why Aren't the Who Playing Woodstock 50?

    Whither the Who? That’s a big question for anyone perusing the Woodstock 50 lineup and noticing that the biggest act from the original 1969 lineup that is still around and active is not on the bill. The timing might have even seemed fortuitous, since the band recently announced plans for a 29-city American tour this [...]

  • KCRW

    KCRW Moves Into New Headquarters as Star DJ Jason Bentley Mulls His Future

    Influential public radio station KCRW has finally left the basement and entered its new home: a sparkling, 34,000-square-foot, three-story $21.7 million glass structure on the campus of Santa Monica College. Part of a $115 million development of its Center for Media and Design, it’s a glittering, shiny and massive step up from its previous studio [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content