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"Was He A Hero?" And Other Questions Surround Chris Kyle's Estate - The American Sniper

As the movie, American Sniper, enjoys box office success, questions and controversies surround the estate of Chris Kyle.  One of his biggest critics is Jesse Ventura, the always-outspoken former professional wrestler and potential presidential candidate. Ventura recently explained in an interview with Howard Stern on SiriusXM that "Chris Kyle is not a hero. A hero must have an honor, and a liar has no honor." Ventura feels that Kyle had a talent for shooting straight, but was merely doing his job and does not deserve hero status.   Chris Kyle

Jesse Ventura has not been the only one to question the hero label placed on Chris Kyle. Bill Maher, Seth Rogan, Michael Moore and others have also made comments questioning the glorification of Chris Kyle in the movie, while Howard Stern, Sarah Palin, Rupert Murdoch and others have defended his hero status. Ventura, however, has been the most vocal about the topic -- perhaps because his view of Chris Kyle is personal.

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Farrah Fawcett Portrait Trial Ends In Favor Of Ryan O'Neal

Farrah Fawcett‘s estate planning wishes have been at the center of a number of lawsuits, as we describe in this article about Ryan O’Neal.  O’Neal was sued by the University of Texas, which claimed that he wrongfully removed the famed Andy Warhol Farrah Fawcett painting from her home after she died.  O’Neal defended himself, saying that this copy of the painting was his and he had permission to take it back after Fawcett died.   Farrah-Fawcett-by-Andy-Warhol1-300x300

The University of Texas disagreed, suing O’Neal back in 2011.  The University’s lawyers felt that, because Fawcett’s revocable living trust left all of her artwork to the University, it should be the rightful owner of the Farrah Fawcett paining, not O’Neal.  It turns out there were actually two copies of the famed portrait, and the University already received one of them.  But it sued O’Neal for the other one too.

The case proceeded to trial last month, lasting three weeks.  O’Neal called several witnesses, including former friends of Fawcett and her former caregiver, who all testified that the second copy of the painting belonged to O’Neal.  He testified that Warhol gave him the second copy, because he was the one who brokered the deal for the famous portrait to be made in the 1970′s.

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No Happy Mothers Day: Kobe Bryant Disputes Mother In Lawsuit

Kobe Bryant, long-time Los Angeles Laker and future Hall-of-Famer, is in a bitter feud with his own mother over ownership of memorabilia potentially worth more than one million dollars.  He’s locked in a he-said, she-said dispute about whether he gave the items to his mother or not.   Kobe_Bryant

Family members are split down the middle about who is telling the truth and who is lying. 

Kobe’s mother, Pamela Bryant, signed a Consignment Agreement with Goldin Auctions, in New Jersey.  In doing so, Pamela gave permission to sell more than 100 items from Kobe’s childhood, including his high school game-worn uniforms, NBA championship rings, and high school Varsity letters.  Goldin Auctions, a noted sports memorabilia auctioneer, advanced $450,000 to Pamela, which she used to purchase a house.

The big problem, of course, is that Kobe Bryant says he never gave the items to his mother and that he certainly never authorized the auction.  He sued the auction house in California to stop the sale, just days after the auction house sued him in New Jersey to permit the auction to go forward.

While Kobe is not suing his mother, and she has not sued him, the heart of the lawsuit boils down to a simple point — did Kobe give the items to his mother or not?  She signed a statement under oath, testifying to the fact that he said she could have the items years ago and that he no longer wanted them.

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Another Lawsuit Brewing Because Martin Luther King, Jr., Died Without A Will

There is no doubt about the greatness of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Unfortunately, his estate planning wasn’t so great.  In fact, King made a mistake that too many people make everyday in our country … he procrastinated with his legal planning and died without a will.   Martin-Luther-King-1964

In large part because of this, his legacy has been marred by fighting among his children over the handling of his estate, including claims of secrecy, mismanagement and misappropriating assets.  Years ago, MLK’s heirs formed a corporation to manage King’s estate, but then they fought over control over the corporation. You can read Trial & Heirs’ coverage of the lawsuit between the King children here.  Luckily, the heirs were able to reach a settlement and ended that round of fighting.

But, that doesn’t mean the court battles have ended.  The corporation which operates the estate turned its attention to a television anchor in Southern Mississippi, named Howard Nelson Ballou.  The Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr., Inc., sued Ballou and claimed he has possession of historic documents relating to King.

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L'Oreal fortune fight leads to interesting criminal case

It's been almost a year since The Probate Lawyer Blog featured a story on the court battle over whether the heiress to the L'Oreal fortune has been a victim of fraud and exploitation.  87-year old Liliane Bettencourt has been called Europe's richest woman.  In the article I wrote last December, I explained how Bettencourt's daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, sued to prove that a celebrity photographer had received gifts from the elder Bettencourt of more than one billion dollars by preying on her mental frailty.  Liliane-bettencourt

The gift recipient, Francois-Marie Banier, and Bettencourt said she was competent and made the gifts of her own free will because they were dear friends.  And yes, they said, it's a lot of money, but considering her fortune has been recently valued at $13 billion (U.S. value) by Forbes, it's not that much money.  (Anyone buy that?)

I had suggested last year that I found it odd that Meyers hadn't started a guardianship proceeding to have her mother declared legally incompetent.  Well, now she has tried that, but the effort failed because Bettencourt refused to submit to a medical evaluation of her mental state, even though a doctor who reviewed her medical records apparently felt she needed a guardian (that doctor's report is what Meyers relied on for her guardianship filing).

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Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! The Video Preview

Curious about how celebrity estate errors can help you protect yourself, your family, and your heirs?  This video introduces our book, Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! by giving an overview of will and trust contests, using the Anna Nicole Smith case as an example.  Anyone who faces a probate fight like this one has to learn their legal rights!


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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