Aretha Franklin has stunned the world since she burst onto the scene back in the 1950s and has continued to do so long after her passing. Though her voice and presence are what will remain with most, her family were left to deal with an unexpected conundrum after two handwritten wills were discovered.
The singer, who was most known for her hit single Respect, was thought to have not originally left a will. Not only was one hidden, handwritten one found in the aftermath of her death, but two. With one locked away in a cabinet, and the other one found placed underneath a cushion on her couch, it is only natural that the validity of these wills must be assessed.
Siblings at war
Not only have the children of Franklin had to come to term’s with their mother’s death, but these newly discovered handwritten wills have given them cause to face each other in court.
On one side, there is Kecalf, as the sole executor of her estate. Her youngest son, he is supporting the content of one of the handwritten wills, which is said to have been written in 2014. The issue with this will is that it goes on to rule out both Teddy- her other son- and Sabrina Owens out of any inheritance, something that the other parties are hoping to contest.
To support his claim, Kecalf has enlisted the help of handwriting expert Erich Speckin to prove how this will was indeed written in Franklin’s own handwriting. He has also been brought in to rule out anyone having tampered with the will since it was written, using UV forensic technology to date the inks from the will. If Speckin can confirm the will’s validity this way, it may be that both Teddy and his other brother, Clarence can hire their own forensic experts to contest the result.
Bringing in the experts
With a whole host of forensic experts on the case, the lens falls on the handwriting in these wills. If the content of these wills was not contentious, then perhaps this expertise would not be needed.
However, due to the sensitive sibling tensions involved in the battle, these forensic examinations are more important than ever. Forensic examiner Bart Baggett has outlined exactly what happens when someone examines handwriting, stating how “I always want to see the original because you can look under a microscope and see a pen lift, a hesitation, a striation.” If these striations match Franklin’s other handwriting, Kecalf’s claim would be hard to dispute.
He goes on to say that line spacing, autographs and birthday cards can also be used to prove or disprove whether it is indeed her writing, adding that he “would find it shocking if the other experts found that it’s not her writing because there’s just a voluminous amount of it and it’s so difficult to execute such an elaborate fraud. The skill level would be amazing.” Although, Baggett himself has not had chance to examine the wills.
Shedding light on the process of this, Baggett then suggests that Speckin must present his findings to the court and await judgement. All this examination must be done under the struct supervision of a court official, so that no findings can be fabricated or deemed invalid.
From there, parties will need to come to an agreement over who takes charge of Franklin’s sprawling, $80 million estate. Whether this is Kecalf with the support of his brother Edward, or Owens, Teddy or Clarence who become sole executors of the state remains to be seen.