Skip to main content
« Back to Blog

Document found in Aretha Franklin's couch is a valid Will

Jury Rules Document Found In Aretha Franklin’s Couch Is A Valid Will

A Michigan jury has ruled, after a 2-day trial, that a 2014 handwritten document found in a spiral notebook is a valid Will to Aretha Franklin’s multi-million-dollar estate.

The document was found by her niece in 2019 in a notebook under a couch when they searched Aretha’s home for records years after her death.

Aretha had left a 2010 formally drawn up Will which gave an even distribution to her family and children; however, the later 2014 handwritten document created an unequal distribution between her 4 children which is why it was so hotly disputed between them.  Whilst 3 out of her 4 children received an equal distribution of her music royalties and funds by this handwritten will, Aretha gave her youngest child and her grandchildren her main home in Bloomfield, which was valued at over a million dollars on her death.

This document was deemed to be valid in spite of being handwritten “… being of sound mind, I write my will and testimony” …

The trial ended a 5-year legal squabble within the family about the validity of her Wills and distribution of her estate.

This case illustrates the importance of making a formal Will to remove any doubts about the intentions of the deceased wishes. But if a challenge is to be made by any of the beneficiaries, then it should be made early once the deceased has died so that as much evidence as possible can be found to evidence the claim.


Challenging a Will is always a difficult task but if you feel you need some advice on challenging a Will following the death of a family member or relative, then please get in touch with Caroline Flint in the Contentious Probate team at MWB.

Caroline’s top tips on Wills are:

  1. Make a formal Will to make sure your wishes are clear.
  2. Review and update, if necessary, your Will regularly.
  3. Upon the death of a relative, if there is a challenge, do this as soon as possible!

For more details on the story follow this link to the BBC news article: