Aretha Franklin may have died without a will, according to reports citing probate court documents, but that filing Tuesday by family members doesn't necessarily mean she didn't leave instructions for her estate, a local lawyer said.

Arnold Reed, one of Franklin’s former attorneys, cautioned against characterizing a filing in Oakland County Probate as evidence Franklin lacked a will.

"You have (estate) representatives for numerous reasons that have legal ramifications that don’t necessarily point to a person having or not having a will," he said Tuesday night. 

The filing lists sons Edward, Theodore Richard White II, Kecalf and Clarence as interested parties, and a niece, Sabrina Owens Garrett, as seeking to be named personal representative of her reported $80 million estate.

Franklin died Aug. 16 of pancreatic cancer. TMZ, an entertainment news website, cited court documents Tuesday in reporting she did not leave a will. 

The Queen of Soul died "intestate" — meaning she had no will at the time of death, according to court documents obtained by TMZ.

Franklin, 76, died at her apartment in Detroit's Riverfront Towers surrounded by family members and close friends.

More: Aretha Franklin, a 'performer without peers'

The legendary singer was reportedly ill for several years.

Reed said Franklin was "always on top of her business" that could have kept her too busy to write a will.

"I found her to be rather copious and on top of everything, but having represented a number of artists, it's not unusual to not leave a will," Reed said. "They are so extremely busy between touring, scheduling and non-estate matters ..."

According to, Michigan law states, when there is no will or surviving spouse, that the children share equally in her estate.

Franklin's estate is estimated at roughly $80 million, according to, a website determines worth by acquiring publicly available information including salaries, real estate holdings, divorces, record sales, royalties and endorsements.

The filing Tuesday was assigned to Judge Jennifer Callaghan. A hearing had not been scheduled, according to court records.

"It's not a situation that speaks of neglect or anything untoward," Reed said. "Obviously you want to have a will, but if you don’t, it’s not anything that means anything can’t be sorted out."

Likewise, Reed said having a will does not always prevent disputes that send surviving relatives to court for a resolution. 

Reed said in Franklin's case, he doesn't foresee a feud between family members. 

"I'm not aware of any tension in the family and I don't anticipate they will face any issues," he said.

More:Aretha Franklin, An Eternal Soul

Franklin's viewing will be 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 28 and Aug. 29 at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 E. Warren in Detroit, and noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 30 at New Bethel Baptist Church, 8430 Linwood in Detroit. A private funeral is Aug. 31.

More: Rev. Jasper Williams of Atlanta to deliver Aretha Franklin eulogy

Twitter: @SarahRahal_


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