Aretha Franklin Died With $1 Million in Uncashed Checks

Aretha Franklin
Nicholas Hunt/WireImage

Aretha Franklin performs on stage at the Elton John AIDS Foundation Commemorates Its 25th Year And Honors Founder Sir Elton John During New York Fall Gala - Show at Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Nov. 7, 2017 in New York City. 

An inventory found checks from Sound Exchange, Screen Writers Guild, Springtime Publishing, EMI, BMI, Carlin Music and Feel Good Films

Aretha Franklin had almost of $1 million in uncashed checks in her possession at the time of her death, according to newly filed court papers. The checks were discovered during an inventory of Franklin’s possessions, adding a new twist to the battle over the Queen of Soul’s estate. 


An inventory following her death found that Franklin had a check for $702,711.90 from Sound Exchange and Screen Writers Guild as well as uncashed checks to her publishing company, Springtime Publishing, from EMI, BMI, Carlin Music and Feel Good Films in the amount of $285,944.27. In total, $988,656.17 in uncashed checks were found. 


Franklin, who died on Aug. 16, 2018 at the age of 76, left behind four sons, Clarence, Edward, Teddy and Kecalf. Originally, no will was found and under Michigan law, her estate was set to be divided equally between her children. But nine months after her death, three handwritten wills -- two from 2010 and one from 2014 -- were found in her house. 


The discovery of the wills, if valid, would change the distribution of Franklin’s assets. Each of the brothers have retained their own legal teams. The authencity of the found documents is under review by a handwriting expert. 


So far, the hefty uncashed checks have caused less commotion. Attorneys for Franklin’s son Kecalf tracked down one the banks that issued checks to Aretha and, according to court papers, there were instances where checks had been uncashed since 2012 and had to be reissued in 2016.



While Kecalf and the other brothers agreed to the appointment of his cousin Sabrina Owens as the personal representative of the estate, he has since expressed displeasure with her work. 


“It is totally unacceptable that it has taken a year for the heirs to begin find out what their mother owned on the date of her death,” Kecalf’s attorneys Charlene Glover-Hogan and Juanita Gavin Hughses wrote in a recent court motion. “To date, the heirs still do not know what was owned on Aretha Franklin’s date of death.” 


Kecalf's attorneys also said that Owens did not distribute an inventory of Aretha's estate to the four heirs until six months after it was due by law. Court papers said that the inventory she eventually compiled was missing large components, including bank statements, tax bills, appraisals for the value of her homes and blue book values of her cars. 


Kecalf’s legal team is demanding that the court either order Franklin’s personal attorney, David Bennett, to produce these documents or impose sanctions on Bennett and Owens for failing to supply them. 


“The only intent of Kecalf Franklin is to obtain and accurate description of items owned by his mother at the time of her death,” according to his recent court filing.