The emotional journey of a week in Detroit following the passing of the Queen of Soul.
Brian Kaufman, Detroit Free Press
The Bloomfield Township, Michigan, police department is investigating a theft from Aretha Franklin’s estate, which has been embroiled in controversy both before and since the late singer’s death.
Police Lt. Timothy Abbo told the Detroit Free Press late Thursday an active theft investigation is underway involving the Queen of Soul’s suburban mansion, but that it started before Franklin’s death. He offered no further details.
Franklin died of pancreatic cancer in August in her Detroit riverfront apartment at the age of 76. At the time of her death, she still owned her 4,148-square-foot Colonial-style home in Bloomfield Township, which has drawn scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service.
The theft investigation was first reported by The Blast, a celebrity news website that says Franklin’s estate is locked in a battle with Franklin’s 61-year-old son, Edward, who was born when the singer was just 14.
Edward, The Blast reports, has been trying to get a court order to force the estate to produce monthly financial documents to Franklin’s heirs. But the estate won’t turn over the information because, it claims, that could negatively impact the criminal investigation involving missing assets from the estate.
As of late Thursday, the Free Press could not reach attorney David Bennett, the estate’s lawyer, for comment.
In December, the IRS filed a claim in Oakland County Probate Court alleging the Franklin estate owed millions in back taxes and penalties. An attorney for the estate told the Associated Press that at least $3 million in back taxes had been paid back to the IRS since Franklin’s death.
According to TMZ, which cited court records in a December report, the late singer owed more than $6.3 million in back taxes from 2012 to 2018 and $1.5 million in penalties.
“All of her returns have been filed,” attorney David Bennett told the AP. “We have disputes with the IRS regarding what they claim was income. We claim its double-dipping income because they don’t understand how the business works.”
According to Bennett, Franklin had a lot of expenses whenever she toured.
“She had to pay for transportation, hotel rooms, backup singers, musicians. When she did that, the IRS was questioning the returns she filed,” Bennett said. “We’re going through audits. Returns were filed as timely as we could get them filed.”
Oakland County court documents did not mention the value of her estate, which could run into the tens of millions.
Just weeks after her death, Franklin’s Bloomfield Township home, which is part of a gated community, was listed for sale for $800,000, but it has since been taken off the market, according to Realtor.com. The custom-built brick home features six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, white marble floors and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking two small ponds and a lap pool. There’s also a sauna, a three-car garage and a jetted tub.
Franklin reportedly bought the home for $1.2 million in 1997, according to the Detroit News. It was built in 1990 and remodeled in 2002.
During her career, Franklin had been the target of a number of lawsuits by creditors.
In 2008, Franklin said an attorney’s mistake caused her $700,000 mansion in Detroit to slip into foreclosure over $445 in taxes and late fees. In 2015, a condo association sued Franklin in Oakland County Circuit Court over $11,500 in homeowner fees on her condo.