Why Aretha didn’t write will for $108m fortune
A LEGAL feud has erupted over Aretha Franklin's $108 million estate after it emerged she did not leave a will before her death at 76.
Her sons are reportedly at odds over whether fireman Willie Wilkerson, who Franklin once described as her "forever friend", should get any of her money.
Wilkerson, 71, first met the legendary musician at a meet-and-greet with fans in Detroit in the 1980s, when they sparked a "fiery" relationship.
They called of an engagement in 2011 but they continued to see each other until she lost her battle with pancreatic cancer.
Franklin's two eldest Clarence, 63, and Edward, 62, feel like he deserves "something" for the time they spent together, reports claim.
But Ted White Jr, 54, and Kecalf, 48, think he used her as a "meal ticket" and only wants her money, an unnamed source told the Express.
The process of dividing her many millions could take years and is likely to play out in public, according to experts who were shocked she did not write a will.
Don Wilson, a Los Angeles lawyer who worked on entertainment matters for Franklin for nearly 30 years, said he repeatedly told her to sort the paperwork out.
He added: "She never told me, 'no, I don't want to do one'. She understood the need. It just didn't seem to be something she got around to."
Laura Zwicker, an lawyer who specialises in estate planning, but not affiliated with the Franklin estate, said she sees it happen all too often in her work.
She added: "People don't like to face their own mortality. I had a client who had a $70 million (A$97 million) real estate portfolio who had had end-stage diabetes.
Under Michigan law, as in most states, the sons will equally divide their mother's assets in the absence of a will.
Franklin's friend Ron Moten, a Michigan businessman, gave the four sons some guidance in his speech at her funeral last week.
He said: "Remember your family, and friends that have been with you for years because you are about to meet a lot of people who will now want to be your new best friend.
"You will also meet some people that will have the best investments in the world for you. My advice? Go slow, be careful and be smart."
Though her records were played millions of times, she earned little in radio royalties from smashes including 1967's Respect, her lawyer Wilson said.
This is because such payments go overwhelmingly to the song's author, not the performer.
In the case of Respect, the royalties go to the estate of Otis Redding, even though the song owes nearly all its popularity to Franklin.
Wilson added: "I would imagine she probably felt she was entitled to more but probably received more than a lot of artists from the time, especially African-American artists."
This story originally appeared in The Sun and is republished here with permission.