All About Estates

R.E.S.P.E.C.T…..the handwriting analysis?

The Aretha Franklin estate saga has taken another interesting turn this week, with a Michigan Probate Court making an order for a handwriting analyst to review one of her holograph Wills.

As Lara Besharat explained in her detailed blog post on May 23rd, Aretha died in August of 2018, leaving behind three handwritten Wills, two of which were dated 2010, and one of which was dated 2014.

The two Wills handwritten in 2010 both appoint Franklin’s son, Theodore White II, and her niece, Sabrina Owens, as executors. However, the 2014 Will appoints another of Franklin’s sons, Kecalf Franklin, as her sole executor. Kecalf recently petitioned the Court to find the 2014 Will valid. The 2014 Will is difficult to decipher, and lawyers for the estate argue that Kecalf does not have the necessary skills to administer the estate. Two of Franklin’s sons (Theodore and Clarence) are disputing the validity of the 2014 Will, while Kecalf and his brother Edward fight for it to be upheld.

As the court battle over Franklin’s estate drags on, earlier this week, Michigan Probate Judge Jennifer Callaghan declared that the administration of Franklin’s estate was to be under court supervision. Interestingly, she also ruled that the 2014 Will is to be analyzed by a handwriting expert to determine its validity.

While having a Will properly prepared by an estates solicitor does not preclude estate litigation, it would at least save the estate the expense of hiring a handwriting expert (though the Will may still be subject to review by a “font detective”…). While we will have to stay tuned to see what happens next with the handwriting analyst’s findings, I hope that the Queen of Soul’s estate is able to be settled sooner rather than later, to limit the cost and heartache to her beneficiaries.

About Emily Hubling
Emily Hubling is a partner in the Trusts, Wills, Estates and Charities group at Fasken. Emily has experience in advising estate trustees in administering a range of complex estate matters, including intestacies, cross-border matters, and contested estates. Working closely with clients’ advisors, Emily prepares Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Trusts to assist clients in fulfilling their unique estate-planning objectives.


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