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Family fight over control of Michael Crichton's trust

Celebrity estate battles just keep coming.  Here's the UPI article about the latest in a long line of court cases involving dueling heirs of the rich and famous.  Best selling author Michael Crichton (writer of ER and Jurassic Park) left behind a messy estate and trust because he failed to update his estate planning documents to provide for his son, not yet born when he died of cancer at age 66.  I wrote about the problems this caused in a prior articleMichael_crichton

Then his estate had to contend with the claim of his wife, Sherri Alexander, who filed paperworking seeking seven million dollars from his estate under a prenuptial agreement she signed with her famous husband in April 2005, before their marriage.

But the real fight just began.  A few days ago, Crichton's daughter, Taylor Crichton, filed a petition in the Los Angeles Probate Court to remove Sherri as one of the three trustees of Crichton's trust, claiming she's breached her fiduciary duties.

Sherri's attorneys issued a press release to publicly criticize Taylor's legal maneuvering.  They pointed out that it is not a breach of fiduciary duty for someone to serve both as trustee and beneficiary at the same time (which does happen regularly).  The press release also addresses how Sherri filed to allow her son to be included as an heir, despite language of Crichton's will disinheriting any children born after his will was written.  It sure seems like how much the 8-month old baby gets will be one of the central issues fought over in this new legal battle.

Fighting over control of estates and trusts doesn't just happen to the wealthy.  In fact, they are partcularly common in second-marriage situations (or fifth-marriage situations like Crichton's).  That's why doing the proper estate planning is extra important for those families.

It's crucial for people who are worried about their spouses and children fighting to think long and hard about appointing a neutral trustee and estate executor, to help avoid disputes like this one.  That's just what Senator Ted Kennedy did (as recently revealed when his will was publicized). 

To learn more about Senator Kennedy's choice -- and why he should be commended for making it -- along with other ways to help your family avoid a fight, keep an eye out for Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!, which is coming out in a few weeks.

Posted by:  Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founder and shareholder of The Center for Probate Litigation and The Center for Elder Law in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law.  You can email him at awmayoras @

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