'Queen of Soul' Left an Estimated $80 Million Estate but Didn't Have a Proper Estate Plan


Aretha Louise Franklin, better known as the ‘Queen of Soul’ died at her home on August 16, 2018 of pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer in Detroit, Michigan. Close family, friends, and loved ones were by her side. Various news outlets have reported that the Queen of Soul died with an estimated net worth of approximately $80 million; most likely consisting of numerous assets such as financial accounts, brokerage accounts, homes, vehicles, publishing rights/copyrights to her songs/materials, and an assortment of memorabilia/awards such as platinum and gold records, as well as multiple grammys.

However, just days after Ms. Franklin’s passing, it is being reported that her surviving children (sons Clarence Franklin, Edward Franklin, Theodore White, Jr., and Kecalf Cunningham) and partner of over thirty years, Willie Wilkerson, are already at war over her $80 million estate. Furthermore, considering that Ms. Franklin purportedly had a habit of being paid in cash and often paid her staff in cash with minimal documentation of said transactions throughout her decades-long career, it is likely that the IRS will target Ms. Franklin’s estate for potential unpaid income taxes, in addition to estate tax and other creditor liabilities.

As of Tuesday, August 21, 2018, an estate was opened for Ms. Franklin at the Oakland County Probate Court, listing her four sons as interested persons and her niece as personal representative. According to the Oakland County probate records and media reports, there is no will or trust directing the disposition of her property, indicating that Ms. Franklin died without an estate plan. Her estate will be subject to Michigan’s intestacy laws. Pursuant to those laws, Ms. Franklin’s assets will mostly likely pass to her children in equal shares. Only time will tell in the ensuing weeks and months exactly how much of and to whom Ms. Franklin’s estate will be distributed.

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