Aretha Franklin left a voicemail for her attorney in the months preceding her death.
Estate planning is essential because it allows people to communicate their wishes regarding what happens to their assets when they die.
To be legally binding, estate planning documents must be prepared and signed according to specific rules.
Simply stating wishes to loved ones is not enough.
Documents must be drafted and signed in the presence of witnesses to be legally valid.
According to a recent The Detroit Free Press article titled “Aretha Franklin voicemails revealed in court as estate battle takes latest twist,“ Aretha Franklin did not sign her most recently drafted last will and testament.
Understandably, this created a mess for her estate settlement.
When she died, two handwritten last wills were found in her home, dating from 2010 and 2014, and presented to the probate court.
An unsigned draft of a last will from 2018 was also submitted in 2021 to the judge by Ted White II, the youngest son of Aretha.
These three last wills provided varying directions.
As such, the estate has remained unsettled since Aretha Franklin died.
Unlike the previous wills, the last will from 2018 directs an equal asset division for her four sons with a trust to be created for her eldest son, who has special needs and requires guardianship.
In addition to the three last wills, a voicemail was submitted for consideration to the court.
The voicemail was played in the court for Oakland County Probate Judge Jennifer Callaghan, for the attorneys for the four sons of Franklin, and for the three sons in the gallery.
On the May 2018 recording, Aretha Franklin left instructions for adjustments she would like to make to the document recently drafted by the attorney she hired.
She indicated she would like to arrange a time to visit the office and finish her estate plan.
The voicemails were the last communications she had with her attorney.
As a result, the eight-page last will was never signed before her death.
The estate battle has scheduled a jury trial for July to determine whether any of Franklin’s estate planning documents should be followed.
The hearing during which the voicemail was played was set to help the probate court determine whether the 2018 draft is admissible in Michigan.
A ruling regarding admissibility should be rendered by the Judge later this month.
Sadly, this estate battle could have been avoided had Aretha Franklin signed her documents.
Reference: Detroit Free Press (April 21, 2023) “Aretha Franklin voicemails revealed in court as estate battle takes latest twist“