Aretha Franklin’s niece, Sabrina Owens, has resigned as the executor of her estate. Owens cited increasing tension and rifts within the family, especially among Franklin’s four sons, as the driver of her decision.
Per Rolling Stone and the Detroit Free Press, in a statement to the court accompanying her resignation, Owens stated, “Given my aunt’s love of family and desire for privacy, this is not what she would have wanted for us, nor is it what I want…I hope that my departure will allow the business of the estate to continue, calm the rift in my family and allow me to return to my personal life.”
Born in March 1942 in Memphis, the Queen of Soul passed away in August 2018 in Detroit. At the time it was thought she left no will. In accordance with Michigan law the estate was to be evenly divided and distributed among her four sons, who agreed to name Owens executor. However, the tension and rifts mentioned by Owens began in May 2019 when three separate wills allegedly written by Franklin were found in a notebook under some couch cushions.
Owens said she accepted the exectuor role was to prevent the shattering of relationships within the family and prevent them from entering into legal disputes with one another, both of which she claims have happened since the emergence of the wills. Her resignation will not take effect immediately, and it is unknown who will replace her in the role. A hearing has been scheduled for March 3 to determine the future of the estate.
Franklin’s youngest son, Kecalf Franklin, has tried to gain control since the wills were found, claiming they suggest his mother wanted him to inherit the estate. He is supported by one brother, Edward, but opposed by another, Ted White, as well as the guarding of the eldest Franklin son, Clarence, who has special needs.
Along with the legal proceedings, Franklin will remain present in pop culture throughout the year. Jennifer Hudson will star as Franklin in the upcoming biopic, Respect, due out October 9 and co-starring Forest Whitaker. Franklin will also be the focus of the third season of National Geographic’s Genius, where she will be portrayed by Cynthia Erivo.