Aretha Franklin's niece says she's quitting as singer's executor of estate

A niece of Aretha Franklin said she's quitting as representative of the late singer's estate, citing a family rift since handwritten wills were discovered last year.

“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,” Sabrina Owens said in a letter filed Thursday in a suburban Detroit court.

The “Queen of Soul” died without a known will in August 2018. Owens, an administrator at the University of Michigan, said she became manager of the estate at the request of Franklin's four sons.

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Aretha Franklin, who died in Detroit on Aug. 16, 2018, at 76, had pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer.

Aretha Franklin, who died in Detroit on Aug. 16, 2018, at 76, had pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Nine months later, Owens reported that three handwritten wills had been discovered in Franklin's home, including one under cushions in the living room. One document seems to indicate that Franklin wanted a son, Kecalf Franklin, to serve as executor or representative.

A judge last August said a handwriting expert could examine the documents. Another son, Theodore White II, asked the judge to make him co-representative of the estate with Owens. Meanwhile, court filings show a mediator has been privately working with the parties.

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Sabrina Owens reads the obituary during the funeral service for Aretha Franklin at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. Owens, Franklin's niece, said she's quitting as representative of the late singer's estate, citing a rift in the family since handwritten wills were discovered last year.

Sabrina Owens reads the obituary during the funeral service for Aretha Franklin at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. Owens, Franklin's niece, said she's quitting as representative of the late singer's estate, citing a rift in the family since handwritten wills were discovered last year. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

“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,” Owens said. “I love my cousins, hold no animosity towards them, and wish them the best.”

Owens' 14-day resignation notice was reported by the Detroit Free Press. A court hearing that was scheduled before her decision is set for Tuesday.

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The estate reported assets of $17 million at the end of August, including master recordings and publishing rights worth an estimated $10.5 million. The Internal Revenue Service in October filed tax claims of more than $6 million.