Will Contest Feed

Jim Morrison's Estate And Legacy Marred By Probate Fights

Who opened the door to battles over the Jim Morrison Estate?  Who won ... and what did they win when the dust settled?  And does drinking your loved one's blood constitute a valid marriage ceremony?Jim_Morrison

This is installment #2 of our weekly Estate Planning Lessons From The Stars series, which is based on the Celebrity Legacies TV show for which we provide commentary as the estate legal experts.  See other articles in the series here.  

Legendary Doors singer Jim Morrison died young at just 27 years of age, in 1971, from a heroin overdose. While his estate had limited cash when Morrison died, the assets in his estate became worth around $80 million.

Continue reading "Jim Morrison's Estate And Legacy Marred By Probate Fights" »

Help For Families With Will Contests And Other Probate Disputes

Do you know a family who is arguing over an estate after a loved one has passed away?  Whether it's someone facing a possible probate court battle, wondering about contesting a will, or confused over how a family trust is being handled, finding an early solution before fighting erupts is critical. Danielle and Andy 2013

Through the years, Danielle and Andy Mayoras have worked with too many families embroiled in estate and probate conflicts to count.  As a result, they've started a new project based on their commitment to help families find resolutions outside of probate court and without spending money on attorneys.

Danielle and Andy are authors of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!, which uses true stories of celebrity estate errors to teach people how to protect their heirs.  As Forbes contributors, Danielle and Andy regularly analyze celebrity stories to provide lessons for families across the country.

The husband-and-wife duo now wants to combine their legal expertise to help select families even more.  Danielle is an estate planning and elder law attorney who has counseled families for years to avoid probate and estate conflict.  Andy is a probate litigation attorney, who regularly represents families already in conflict over will dispute cases, estate disputes, trusts, and other probate disputes, through litigation, mediation, and arbitration.

Continue reading "Help For Families With Will Contests And Other Probate Disputes" »

The Controversy of Arturo Gatti's Death May Never End

Arturo-GattiArturo Gatti, the former world-champion boxer, died violently while on vacation in Brazil, in 2009.  His wife, Amanda Rodrigues Gatti, was arrested for murder, only to be released after the police ruled the death a suicide.  Now, almost four years later, Brazilian authorities have re-opened the investigation and the case may soon return to court.  

It’s the latest chapter in a long line of legal struggles that started after Arturo Gatti’s death.  Gatti’s mother, brother, and the mother of his first child have always believed that Rodrigues was responsible for his death.  Gatti was found strangled by Rodrigues’ purse strap, and she reportedly was in the room with his body for ten hours without realizing he was dead.

Rodrigues has consistently maintained that Gatti committed suicide.  She points out that autopsies have been done in both Brazil and Montreal — where the couple lived — and both determined that Gatti killed himself.

Continue reading "The Controversy of Arturo Gatti's Death May Never End" »

Court Ruling Finally Allows Body of Late Jefferson Star To "Move On Up"

One could only imagine what George Jefferson — the wise-cracking character who was “movin’ on up” on the 1970′s TV hit, The Jeffersons — would have said about this predicament.  The body of actor Sherman Hemsley, who played George Jefferson, has been kept on ice for the last 3 1/2 months.  His remains have been refrigerated since he passed away from lung cancer on July 24, 2012, at the age of 74.  Sherman Hemsley

Why?  It’s all because a man claiming to be his half-brother challenged the validity of Hemsley’s will in court.  Hemsley’s will — created a mere 6 weeks before he died — left everything to his former business manager and close friend, Flora Enchinton.  Sherman Hemsley had no other family members alive.  Estate records show the value of his estate at around $50,000.

Continue reading "Court Ruling Finally Allows Body of Late Jefferson Star To "Move On Up"" »

Did Artist Thomas Kinkade Change His Will While Drunk?

It’s estimated that one in twenty American homes have a Thomas Kinkade painting hanging on the walls.  The self-named “Painter of Light” turned his gift of rendering landscapes and other words of art into a tremendous commercial endeavor.  In fact, his numerous corporate holdings reportedly topped $100 million in annual sales some years, primarily due to mass reproduction of his works.   Thomas Kinkade

But the Painter of Light was not without his demons, primarily alcoholism and a failed marriage.  He died suddenly at age 54 caused by “acute intoxication” from  alcohol and Valium, on April 6, 2012.  His wife, Nanette, had filed for divorce two years before, and the couple was legally separated.  Kinkade died while living with his girlfriend of 18 months, Amy Pinto-Walsh.

The girlfriend and estranged wife began fighting almost immediately after Kinkade passed.  Pinto-Walsh was kept from the funeral and slapped with a lawsuit for breach of a confidentiality agreement.  The family wanted her to remain quiet and not share any personal details with the media.

Pinto-Walsh did not rest on her laurels.  She went to probate court to enforce two handwritten wills (called “holographic” wills) that she says Kinkade wrote for her benefit in late 2011.

These two handwritten wills are interesting, to say the least.  The first one, dated November 11, 2011, bequeaths to Pinto-Walsh the sum of $10 million dollars “from my corporate policy” and his house and property next door “for her security.”

Continue reading "Did Artist Thomas Kinkade Change His Will While Drunk?" »

Brooke Astor Estate Settlement: Marshall Gets His Just Desserts

News broke recently about a global settlement involving the estate of Brooke Astor.    The renowned New York society queen and philanthropist, who died at age 105, left behind an estate of nearly $200 million dollars.   Brooke Astor 2

Astor’s assets — along with the $50 million charitable trust of her late husband — have been tied up since she passed in 2007.  The fighting was so extensive that it dragged in a “who’s who” of top New York City institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, the New York Public Library, Rockefeller University, and even the United Nations, among many others.

Under Astor’s 2002 will, her only son, Anthony Marshall, stood to inherit tens of millions of dollars, with most of it slated to pass to charity after he died.  But Marshall wanted much more.  He and a lawyer,  Francis X. Morrissey, Jr., convinced the elderly Astor — when she was suffering from dementia — to sign a series of codicils to Astor’s 2002 will.  These codicils would have allowed Marshall to leave much of Astor’s fortune to whomever he wanted (specifically, his younger wife, whom Astor reportedly detested) instead of to charity.

Continue reading "Brooke Astor Estate Settlement: Marshall Gets His Just Desserts" »

Rosa Parks' Final Wishes, Ignored for Years, Are Finally Restored

She ranks as one of the greatest civil rights icons of all time, all starting with a seemingly simple act of refusing to move from a bus seat.  Rosa Parks passed away at age 92 in 2005, living in a modest apartment in Detroit, Michigan.  Her estate was modest too. Officially valued at $372, 624 in monetary terms, but of course priceless in terms of memories and historical significance.   Rosa Parks

Her final wishes were not so modest.  She assigned all of her belongings to a charitable institute to “educate and motivate youth and adults, particularly African American persons, for self and community betterment.”   She called this the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development.  She named her close friend, Elaine Steele, along with a retired Detroit judge, to oversee her estate.  She also named Elaine Steele as a prominent beneficiary, including a 90% recipient of royalties, with 10% passing to her nieces and nephews.

But Parks’ many nieces and nephews did not agree with her final will and trust, which were created in July, 1998.  They sued to challenge the estate plan, accusing Steele of using undue influence on Parks.  Steele denied it.  After the case was started, amid claims of mismanagement, the probate judge removed Steele and the other appointed executor and replaced them with two local attorneys.

Continue reading "Rosa Parks' Final Wishes, Ignored for Years, Are Finally Restored" »