Aretha Franklin’s Family Is In a Full-Blown War Over the Singer’s Assets and Legacy

According to the late Queen of Soul’s lawyers, Aretha Franklin’s youngest son, Kecalf Cunningham, doesn’t have “the ability, skill, and knowledge” to serve as estate administrator.

Late last summer, the famous gospel and soul singer succumbed to pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor (pNET) at 76. Initially, it appeared that Aretha hadn’t written a will.

But earlier this year, family members discovered three handwritten wills under the cushions in the late singer’s home in Detroit.

The most recent one, dated March 2014, gave her assets to family members, including Kecalf Cunningham, the youngest of four sons.
But, in a court filing in June, attorneys for Franklin’s estate told an Oakland County, Michigan judge “no basis [exists] to support the assumption” that Cunningham has the “ability, skill, [and] knowledge” to serve as the estate’s representative.

In fact, Sabrina Owens, the singer’s niece who has managed the estate until now, has done “a marvelous job” as administrator. She has successfully managed business deals involving Aretha’s music, life, and likeness.

Kecalf Cunningham hasn’t.

Now, in an increasingly complex and bitter family dispute, another son says he deserves to manage his mother’s estate.

Note – Please leave a very clear will behind.

In a court filing, attorneys for Theodore White II said he – not Cunningham – should “co-manage” the estate. He would serve alongside Owens.

In the 2014 will, Aretha Franklin had allegedly scratched out White and Owens’ names. Yet, they had both appeared in a handwritten will she wrote in 2010.

According to White, his mother didn’t cross out the names. He also doesn’t believe Cunningham did so, either.

On August 6th, a judge will consider a request to have a handwriting expert examine the handwritten wills.

Yet Aretha’s youngest son apparently doesn’t want to wait that long. He has filed for a temporary restraining order demanding Owens no longer exercise her job as administrator.

The case highlights the importance of creating a clear will to avoid potential disputes and confusion among family members. Even though Aretha Franklin’s three handwritten wills have been discovered, it is unclear which one is valid.

It is recommended to have a lawyer help draft a will, especially if there are complex assets or family dynamics involved. A clear and legally sound will can ensure that a person’s assets are distributed according to their wishes, while also minimizing the potential for family disputes.

In this case, the dispute over who should manage Aretha Franklin’s estate highlights the importance of choosing the right person for the job. While family members may have a personal connection to the deceased, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have the skills or knowledge required to manage a complex estate.

Choosing a neutral third-party administrator, such as a professional executor, can help ensure that the estate is managed in an objective and fair manner.

In addition to choosing the right executor, it is also important to regularly review and update a will as circumstances change. This can include changes in personal relationships, major life events, or changes in assets.

By taking the time to create a clear will, choosing the right executor, and regularly reviewing and updating the document, individuals can help ensure that their final wishes are carried out and minimize the potential for family disputes.


Featured image by InSapphoWeTrust (CC by 2.0).