The last payment to nearly $8 million tax bill to the estate of the late Aretha Franklin has finally been paid in full, including all assessed penalties — according to a court petition filed by the estate’s appointed representative Lawyer Reginald Turner, as reported by the Detroit Free Press. This means that the largest financial hurdle in the settlement and division of the performer’s assets to her heirs has finally passed — and it only took four years since her death. This also fully gives Aretha Franklin’s four sons open access to the many royalties and revenue streams left by the Queen of Soul.
When she died at 76 years old due to pancreatic cancer, her total fortune was estimated at $80 million, according to the Baron Family Law, but has since dwindled to pay off outstanding debt and taxes. “Her family thought that Aretha died without any estate plan at all. But since then, four different wills attributed to the late singer have been discovered. And ever since those documents came to light, her four adult sons—Clarence, Edward, Ted White Jr., and Kecalf—have been in court fighting one another over her assets,” the law firm said. The firm noted such situations are common among celebrities and notes that the same lengthy legal battles happened to the wealth left by Prince, Jimi Hendrix, and Bob Marley who all died without a formal estate plan.
Last April 2021, Franklin’s estate has agreed to a payment plan with the IRS. It included a $800 thousand initial payment and 45% percent of all income from the musician’s royalties, deals, and other projects was earmarked for payment to the IRS; another 40 percent held at an escrow account for the taxes on any new income generated after the deal; and the remaining 15 percent was for the management and legal fees the estate may incur. Now, what’s next is for the heirs to agree and/or the court to decide how to equitably divide the estate. With four separate wills battling for legitimacy, the court may have to decide the estate’s fate.