Handwritten Will by Aretha Reveals a Surprise

The father of her first child wasn't who everyone thought
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 22, 2019 11:16 AM CDT
In Aretha's Surprise Wills, a Surprise Revelation
This photo from Monday shows one of three handwritten wills that a lawyer says were found in the home of Aretha Franklin in Pontiac, Mich., months after her death.   (AP Photo/Ed White)

When Aretha Franklin died, the initial word was that she didn't leave a will. That changed in a big way with the discovery of not one, not two, but three handwritten wills in her home. The big questions now are whether they're real and, if so, whether they're legal, and the family has asked a judge to help figure it all out. In the meantime, a closer look at the wills has revealed a surprise, reports NBC News. In one of the documents, Franklin writes that the father of her first son was not the man biographers had long thought. She identifies Clarence's dad as Edward Jordan Sr., not schoolmate Donald Burk, and she specifies that Jordan "should never receive or handle any money or property belonging to Clarence or that Clarence receives as he has never made any contribution to his welfare, future or past, monetarily, material, spiritual, etc."

Franklin gave birth to Clarence, who has unspecified special needs, when she was 12. Her second son, Edward, came two years later, and Jordan is said to be his father as well. In the wills, Franklin goes to great lengths to make sure that her four sons are treated well—she directs her assets to be divided equally among the three younger ones and for arrangements to be made for Clarence's care, per the Detroit Free Press. The newspaper digs out another nugget: Franklin was receiving $100,000 a year in royalties from Warner Music Group, parent company of Atlantic Records, which released mega hits such as "Respect." Warner Bros. also kept a $1.6 million account in deferred royalties for Franklin, perhaps because she wanted to keep down her taxes. The Free Press has links to Franklin's handwritten notes here, here, and here. (More Aretha Franklin stories.)

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