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Will contest rages over estate of illustrator Tasha Tudor

Tasha Tudor was a beloved children's book illustrator and author who was considered by many to be a 19-century Martha Stewart.  She lived as if it was the 1800s, on a New England farm.  She even raised her four children for years without electricity or running water.  She illustrated such classics as The Wind in the Willows, The Night Before Christmas, and The Secret Garden.Tasha Tudor

Tudor died at the age of 92 on June 18, 2008, eccentric to the end.  According to the New York Times, she claimed to be the reincarnation of a sea captain's wife who lived in the early 19th Century and she strove to replicate that life.  Tudor said that, after she passed, she intended to return to the 1830s. 

Her estate has been estimated to be worth more that two million dollars.  She left almost all of it to only one of her four children.

The will was reportedly signed in 2001 and left everything to her son Seth, and his son Winslow, except for small bequests to the other three children and some of the grandchildren.  Tudor's will says that she didn't leave more to her other children because they were estranged.

The attack on the will is led by her other son, Thomas Tudor, who says he was never estranged from his mother.  He and his two sisters claim that Seth exercised undue influence to convince their mother to sign that will.  They've also claimed that Seth isn't properly administering the estate, challenging his decision to allow a public memorial service when the will called for no funeral or viewing.

The judge appointed a special administrator to handle the estate's taxes and help determine what the estate is really worth.  In doing so, he noted how he felt it was impossible for the family to ever agree.

The Boston Globe has the full story on the case here.

As attorneys who regularly handle and educate about estate and trust disputes like this one, we can say that these are always emotional and difficult for everyone involved.  It sounds like the Tudor family feud will be no exception. 

That's one of the reasons we wrote "Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!"  We use celebrity tales like this one to help families from ending up the same way.  We also include chapters about what families should do if they're already in a will contest or other family court fight.

Posted by: Andrew W. Mayoras and Danielle B. Mayoras, co-authors of Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founders 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. Andrew and Danielle are husband and wife attorneys, professional speakers and consultants across the country.

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