Aretha Franklin’s Estate Still Unsettled as Executor Resigns
By Gerry W. Beyer
Sabrina Owens, the niece of the late Aretha Franklin, took on the role of executor with the approval of the diva’s four sons shortly after the singer’s death. However, family disputes were described as the reason for Owens’ letter of resignation to her lawyer that was then filed in probate court. The judge overseeing the case is expected to consider Owens’s petition at a hearing on Tuesday.
The timing may cause more confusion as several major projects for the estate are ongoing, including the filming of a biopic starring Jennifer Hudson, who had the approval of Franklin herself. At the time of the singer’s death in August of 2018, the court and the family believed that she died intestate. However, Owens found three handwritten wills last May while going through Franklin’s home in Detroit. The discovery led to months of legal woes and tense negotiations among Franklin’s sons and the estate, though the validity of the wills have yet to be proven.
Lawyers for Franklin’s sons have in recent weeks been preparing for a possible trial in the fall, and Kecalf Franklin, asked to have David J. Bennett removed as a lawyer for the estate, though he represented Franklin for about 30 years. In her letter, Owens said she had accepted the role of executor “under two important conditions”: that “no fractured relationships” develop in the family, and that disagreements did not end up in court — “both of which,” she wrote, “have occurred.”
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