Row Looms After Aretha Dies Without Will Or Trust
Legendary singer Aretha Franklin has 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 lawyer, 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 August 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," lawyer Don Wilson, who was Franklin's entertainment lawyer 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 catalogue, 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 capitalise on the musician's work and holdings in the years after his death.
By contrast, David Bowie, who died in 2016 after a long bout with cancer, had spent many years buttoning up his estate and catalogue with a longtime business manager -- even removing certain songs from his official catalogue -- and an orderly reissue campaign was already under way 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."