It took a jury to decide whether Aretha Franklin's hand-written will, found in a couch and signed with a squiggle described as a "smiley in an 'a'," would supercede one from 2010 that favored a different one of her four sons. They decided it was good enough to go, and now a court is approving a distribution of the famed singer's considerable real estate assets.
When Franklin died from pancreatic cancer in August 2018, it was widely believed she had not prepared a will to distribute ownership of roughly $6m (£4.6m) in real estate, cash, gold records and furs, or to her music copyrights. But, nine months later, her niece Sabrina Owens – the estate's executor at the time – discovered two separate sets of handwritten documents at the singer's home in Detroit. One version, dated June 2010, was found inside a locked desk drawer, along with record contracts and other documents. A newer version, from March 2014, was found within a spiral notebook containing Franklin's doodles wedged beneath the living room sofa cushions. All of Franklin's sons agreed the 2010 document was valid, but argued over whether Franklin had actually signed the 2014 document.
The copyrights to her musical legacy are being split equally. They're all fine.