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Still Demanding ‘RESPECT’: The Surprise Left in Aretha Franklin Three Wills

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“To Whom It May Concern…” one of the handwritten messages starts out.   The handwriting is barely legible as scrawled by someone lying down or barely able to hold the pen.  But the next phrase makes clear the author is “…of sound mind…”

When the Queen of Soul died in August of last year, it was initially believed that she didn’t leave a will behind decide how her estate would be divided among her four children.  Now, nine months after her death, not one but three handwritten wills have been found in her Detroit-area home. Reports say two of the documents were in a locked closet and the third was found in a spiral notebook stuffed under the sofa cushion. Despite the manner in which the wills were drafted, the documents make clear Franklin’s wishes for her fortune and her children with detailed instructions especially pertaining to the care of her special needs son Clarence.

Clarence was Franklin’s first born.  She gave birth to him when she was only 12 years old.  Though Franklin didn’t talk much about her personal life and her children, it was common knowledge that she became a mother at such a young age.  What few people knew was the name of Clarence’s real father. For practically all of Clarence’s life, Franklin’s schoolmate Donald Burk was said to be the father.  One of the wills dated June 21, 2010 now identifies Edward Jordan Sr. as Clarence’s biological father.  Jordan also fathered Franklin’s second oldest child Edward.

Franklin made it clear that Jordan is the father and made it equally clear that he is to get nothing.  The will says, “His father, Edward Jordan Sr., should never receive or handle any money or property belonging to Clarence or that Clarence receives as he has never made any contribution to his welfare, future or past, monetarily, material, spiritual, etc.”  To make sure no one misunderstands, the word “never” is underlined.

Franklin simply wanted to make sure her children, especially Clarence are cared for in her absence.  There are questions like why a woman many considered shrewd when it came to handling business didn’t have a formal will drawn up with her lawyers?  Also, why did it take almost a year after her death to discover all three of the documents at once?  There may be nothing nefarious at play here, but the courts will have to get involved to settle the matter.

According to NBC news the “…16 scrawled pages haven’t yet been authenticated as being in Franklin’s handwriting… And even if they are real, it’s not clear that they’re valid, according to the court documents, which ask the judge to sort through it all and determine where to go next.”

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