She left no will or trust, and processing the estate, which could be worth tens of millions of dollars, has been slow. New pleadings filed in Oakland County Probate Court spell out some of the disharmony.
Franklin was twice divorced.
The record doesn't identify the man beyond noting he's the father of one of her four sons, but it appears to be her first husband, Ted White, who served for a time as Franklin's manager.
Franklin and White have a son, Ted White Jr. Her second marriage to actor Glynn Turman didn't happen until 1978, eight years after her youngest son was born.
Bennett could not be reached Friday morning.
The pleading was filed in response to a request from Franklin's son, Edward Franklin, for more financial disclosure from the estate as it's being processed.
Just before Christmas, a lawyer for Edward Franklin asked Probate Judge Jennifer Callaghan to order the disclosure of monthly financial statements and other records. He also took aim at the estate's personal representative, Sabrina Garrett Owens, Franklin's niece.
Among the records Edward Franklin wants are "copies of all invoices and supporting documents regarding payments to friends and relatives of the personal representative, if any, for services performed for the estate."
Bennett on Thursday asked Callaghan to deny the request for monthly financial updates, saying providing them "would be an exceptional expense to the estate, is time-consuming and would interfere with the administration of the estate."
He noted that Edward Franklin was advised that quarterly meetings have been planned and the first one was Nov. 5. At that meeting, which Edward Franklin attended with his wife and his lawyer, he was "provided a current balance sheet, profit and loss statement, general ledger and a cash summary for both the estate of Aretha Franklin and Springtime Publishing Inc.," according to the filling.
Bennett also disclosed for the first time the allegations of theft.
"The Bloomfield Township Police Department is conducting an ongoing criminal investigation of the theft of Ms. Franklin's assets prior to her death," he wrote.
Late Thursday, Police Lt. Timothy Abbo confirmed an active theft investigation involving Franklin's Bloomfield Township mansion but offered no further details.
Bennett argued that disclosing too much information about the finances could harm both the police investigation and the royalties dispute with the ex-husband.
"In either instance, the time records and other materials requested may jeopardize these matters and should not be disclosed," the lawyers wrote.
The Free Press reported in August that Franklin owned three homes in Bloomfield Township at the time of her death.
Her main residence is a home in Turtle Lake, a gated community just west of Forest Lake Country Club in Bloomfield Township. She bought the house on Turtle Pond Court in June 2001 for $1.8 million but its value fell during the recession and tax assessors now list its market value at about $1.3 million.
Franklin owned another Bloomfield Township home on Kiftsgate Bend near Lone Pine and Telegraph roads. That one is valued at $1.2 million, according to township tax records.
Franklin owns a third home on Wickford Court in the Fox Hills subdivision near Opdyke Road and South Boulevard. Tax assessors list its value at $270,000.
She also owned a Detroit home that backs up to the Detroit Golf Club. At the time of her death, she was living in an apartment at Riverfront Towers on the waterfront.
Probate court records show that in December, the Internal Revenue Service filed a claim in Oakland County Probate Court, alleging the Franklin estate owed about $6.3 million 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.
"All of her returns have been filed," Bennett told the AP last month. "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."
In response to questions about contracts for professional services by the estate, Bennett wrote in a pleading that the estate had hired an accountant, Michael C. Applebaum, to help with Franklin's 2018 tax return as well as future returns. It also hired tax attorney Gary Glenn.
The estate also has enlisted William Morris Endeavor Entertainment and International Creative Management as agents "for the promotion and granting of licenses, movie rights, commercials and other matters relating to the entertainment industry."
"All of the above are for the benefit of marshaling the estate assets and enlarging the estate for the heirs," Bennett wrote.