Aretha Franklin’s voicemail messages from May 2018 mention her desired adjustments to a will recently drafted by an attorney she’d hired. While Franklin is heard saying she’d like to arrange an office visit “to finish this,” those voicemails turned out to be her last communication with the attorney, and the eight-page document remained unsigned when she died a few months later.
The Detroit Free Press’ recent article, “Aretha Franklin voicemails revealed in court as estate battle takes latest twist,” reports that Aretha Franklin’s voicemails made for a chilling “voice-from-the-grave” scene in the courtroom of Oakland County Probate Judge Jennifer Callaghan. The counsel for Franklin’s four sons gathered at the judge’s bench as audio was streamed from a laptop computer while three of the sons listened on from the gallery.
In the recordings, Aretha Franklin’s voicemail to her estate attorney, the Queen of Soul sounds polite but firm as she states her requested changes to the drafted will.
The hearing was the latest twist in the long estate battle complicated by the discovery of multiple conflicting documents that indicate her final wishes. The 2018 draft is one of three wills as the judge considers how the estate will be distributed among the four sons and other heirs.
The document was filed to the court in 2021 by Ted White II, the second youngest of Franklin’s sons. It followed the appearance of two handwritten wills, penned by the singer in 2010 and 2014 and found tucked away in her home after her death. The wills have varying instructions, which has made for a contentious impasse among her sons. The 2018 draft is the only one that calls for assets to be split equally among the three youngest, with eldest son Clarence Franklin, who has special needs and is under guardianship, to be supported by a trust.
A jury trial is scheduled for July to determine which — if any — of the documents should be upheld. The recent hearing was scheduled to determine if the unsigned 2018 draft is admissible under Michigan statutes. The judge is expected to rule later this month.
Please note that this type of evidence will vary widely, State to State. It certainly serves as a reminder to confirm your intentions as soon as practical in a binding way.
Reference: Detroit Free Press (April 21, 2023) “Aretha Franklin voicemails revealed in court as estate battle takes latest twist”