Aretha Franklin's 2014 Will Found in Couch Deemed Valid by Jury: What to Know About Her Sons' Legal Battle

Three of Franklin's four sons have been in a dispute regarding the handwritten wills since her death.

The 2014 will found in the couch of Aretha Franklin's home -- following her death in 2018 -- has been deemed valid by a jury. 

According to CNN, on Tuesday, after an hour of deliberations, a jury at the Oakland County Probate Court determined that a document that was found in the couch of the star's home will stand as the record of the estate, as it was signed by the late artist and shows her intent. 

The 2014 handwritten document rules in favor of her two sons, Kecalf and Edward Franklin. 

Franklin's son, Ted White II, argued that a handwritten will from 2010 -- which was found in a cabinet and favors him -- should control her estate. Kecalf and Edward Franklin argued that the 2014 document should be the final say. 

Both documents say that the sons would share income from music and copyrights. However, the 2014 document crosses out Ted's name as the executor of the estate, and instead has Kecalf. Since the document was determined valid, it means that Kecalf and Franklin's grandchildren get Franklin's home in the suburb of Bloomfield Hills -- which is valued at over $1 million -- and cars. 

If the jury ruled that neither document was valid, under a Michigan state law, Franklin's assets would have been evenly distributed between her sons. Franklin's oldest son, Clarence Franklin, who has mental illness, is under legal guardianship and has reached a settlement for an undisclosed percentage of the estate. As a result, he did not pick sides during the legal battle. 

According to CBS News, in March, a public accounting record showed that the estate had an income of $3.9 million during a previous 12-month period and had $900,000 in legal fees. The assets were estimated at $4.1 million and were mostly cash and real estate. The GRAMMY-winning singer's creative works and intellectual property was valued at $1. 

Sabrina Owens, Franklin's niece, and the person who originally found the wills, served as the singer's personal representative, but resigned due to a rift within the family. The position is now held by Nicholas E. Papasifakis, a Michigan estate lawyer, who did not take sides in the dispute.

Following the conclusion of the trial, other matters such as tribute concerts and biopics (similar to Respect starring Jennifer Hudson) would require a universal agreement from the family, unless a business manager is determined to make the decisions. 

Franklin died on Aug. 16, 2018 following a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 76.