PONTIAC, Mich. -- A Detroit lawyer who said he knew Aretha Franklin and “idolized her" was appointed as interim manager of her estate Tuesday, a step that could ease tensions among the late singer's sons.
A judge accepted the resignation of Franklin's niece, Sabrina Owens, who said she was worn down by family acrimony since confusing handwritten wills were discovered 10 months ago.
Reginald Turner of the Clark Hill firm was picked to succeed Owens as temporary personal representative or executor. He's in line to become president of the American Bar Association and years ago served on the Detroit school board and the state school board.
“I'll work hard for you,” Turner told Ted White, one of Franklin's four sons, at the conclusion of a hearing in Oakland County Probate Court.
Franklin died without a formal will in August 2018. Owens, an administrator at the University of Michigan, became personal representative with the approval of the Queen of Soul's sons.
But divisions emerged last spring when Owens said handwritten wills were found in Franklin's home. The latest document from 2014 indicates that Franklin wanted son Kecalf Franklin to run her estate.
An expert said the will is in Franklin's writing, but a decision on its legal status still is months away. Judge Jennifer Callaghan has scheduled hearings for September.
Owens in January said she was resigning, citing a “rift” in the family. Kecalf Franklin's attorneys accused her of mismanaging assets. She denied it.
Turner's appointment was proposed by Kecalf Franklin's lawyers. He's an experienced litigator but acknowledged having no experience in estate law. His firm has estate specialists who will assist him.
“I knew Ms. Franklin. ... Like everyone in this room, I idolized her,” Turner told the judge.
Ted White also sought to become personal representative. His attorney, Kurt Olson, noted his college degree and experience in the music industry. But Callaghan chose Turner, who plans to charge the estate $350 an hour.
The estate reported assets of $17 million at the end of August, including master recordings and publishing rights worth an estimated $10.5 million.
Another son, Clarence Franklin, proposed suburban Detroit attorney Andrew Mayoras as temporary executor. He's the co-author of a 2012 book, “Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!”
“It was a fun adventure. It was a nice side project,” Mayoras said.
Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap