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Aretha Franklin’s Estate Sues Over Contested Holographic Will


On August 16, 2018, world-renowned soul singer Aretha Franklin passed away as a result of advanced pancreatic cancer. Known for her powerful vocals and title as the Queen of Soul, President Barack Obama stated that Franklin ”helped define the American experience” and that “in her voice, we could feel our history, all of it and in every shade.” After her death, a dispute over her Wills ensued. At first, the media speculated that she did not have a Will in place. Later, her family entered probate court to dispute three different Wills that the singer purportedly wrote. 

Three Holographic Wills Surfaced After Franklin’s Death 

Sabrina Owens, the current personal representative of the Estate, discovered three “holographic wills” after the singer’s death. A holographic will is written by the Testator and signed by the Testator but one that hasn’t been signed by witnesses. The multiple Wills are dated June 21, 2010, October 20, 2010, and March 31, 2014.  Owens allegedly found the Will from 2014 under a seat cushion in the singer’s home.

The Will from 2014 named Franklin’s son Kecalf Franklin as the Personal Representative of her Estate. Attorneys who are representing the Estate argued in a recent Court filing that even if a Court finds the 2014 Will as valid, Kecalf Franklin does not have the “ability skill (and) knowledge” to be the Personal Representative. It remains to be seen whether Sabrina Owens will serve as the Personal Representative or if the Probate Court will find the 2014 Will valid.

Florida Does Not Recognize Holographic Wills 

Holographic Wills are signed and handwritten by the testator. They do not have the signatures of witnesses. It is important to note that while some states recognize holographic wills, Florida does not. If a Will is handwritten, signed by the Testator and Witnessed by other people, a Florida Court recognizes it as an attested Will.

An attested Will must have the following requirements under Florida law to be legally valid:

  • It cannot be an oral Will. The Will must be in written form.
  • The Testator needs to sign the Will at the end of the document. A proxy for the testator may sign the Will at the direction of the Testator in the Testator’s presence.
  • Two witnesses who personally witnessed the Testator signing the Will must also sign the Will. Florida does not have an age requirement for a Witness, but someone 16 or older years of age is recommended. The witnesses must observe the signature and be able to understand that the testator is signing a Will.
  • The Testator and witnesses need to sign in the presence of each other at the same time.

Family Disputes Involving Wills Can Be Complicated. We Are Here To Help 

When there are multiple Wills involved after the death of a loved one, tensions can run high. Perhaps one family member doesn’t trust the validity of one of the Wills. Maybe one of the Wills would change who the Personal Representative is or would cut someone out of the Will. If you’re involved in a dispute involving multiple Wills, contact Pompano Beach multiple wills lawyer Mark R. Manceri, P.A. to set up a consultation today.




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