The Queen of Soul died without putting a will or an estate plan in place. Things are now starting to get ugly. There’s a police investigation and a dispute between the estate and her ex-husband, the father of one of her four sons.
Processing the estate of Aretha Franklin is going to take far longer than if she had a will or an estate plan. The famed singer died at age 76 in Detroit, with an estate valued at tens of millions of dollars. However, it’s going to be a long time before anything is settled.
The Detroit Free Press reported in a recent article, “Aretha Franklin's ex-husband wants a cut of her music royalties,” that recently filed pleadings in Oakland County Probate Court detail some of the fighting.
"There is a dispute between the estate and Ms. Franklin's ex-husband, the father to one of the heirs, regarding music royalties," David Bennett, a lawyer for the estate, wrote in a pleading.
Aretha Franklin was twice divorced, and the record doesn't name the man, beyond saying that he's the father of one of her four sons. It looks like it’s her first husband, Ted White, who served for a time as Franklin's manager. Franklin and White have a son, Ted White Jr. Her second marriage to actor Glynn Turman didn't occur until 1978—eight years after her youngest son was born.
The recent court pleading was filed in response to a request from Edward Franklin, Aretha’s son, for more financial disclosure from the estate, as it's being processed. Prior to Christmas, a lawyer for Edward Franklin requested that Probate Judge Jennifer Callaghan order the disclosure of monthly financial statements and other records.
Edward wants "copies of all invoices and supporting documents regarding payments to friends and relatives of the personal representative, if any, for services performed for the estate."
The lawyer for the estate, Bennett, asked Judge Callaghan to deny the request for monthly financial updates, because it "would be an exceptional expense to the estate, is time-consuming and would interfere with the administration of the estate."
The IRS filed a claim in December of last year alleging the Franklin estate owed about $6.3 million in back taxes and penalties. An attorney for the estate told the Associated Press that at least $3 million in back taxes had been paid back to the IRS since Franklin's death.
The dispute, said the attorney, relates to what the IRS claims is income. The nature of performing requires considerable overhead for transportation, hotel rooms, singers, lighting, musicians, etc. The IRS is questioning her expenses and an accountant was hired to help with past and future tax returns.
Even if the IRS was questioning the business side of Aretha Franklin, an estate plan would have preempted many other issues for her heirs.
Reference: Detroit Free Press (January 11, 2019) “Aretha Franklin's ex-husband wants a cut of her music royalties”