The Probate Lawyer Blog posed the question a few days ago: Will there be a fight over Gary Coleman's estate? It looks like we have an answer -- a resounding "Yes!".
And it all centers around Gary Coleman's final wishes. The 1999 will has been released. You can download Gary Coleman's Will (courtesy of TMZ).
It's very brief (all of a page and a half), and it appoints his friend Dion Mial as executor and directs that all of his assets be turned over to a trust he created called the Millennium Edge Trust.
It also states that he should be cremated and that only those with no "financial ties" to him be invited to his wake. Coleman wants them to "look each other in the eyes and say they really cared personally for Gary Coleman." And no members of the press are invited!
Based on this language, ex-wife Shannon Price may not be included. It sure looks like she has financial ties to him -- at least, if she has anything to say about it.
She says that Coleman hand wrote a new will (or more specifically, a codicil) in 2007 that left her everything.
There are only two problems with this. For one, Utah law (where Coleman lived when he passed) provides that wills and other instruments (meaning trusts, beneficiary designations, etc.) naming a divorced spouse are null and void, unless they were written after the divorce was final. So a 2007 will or codicil wouldn't help Price, who was divorced from Coleman later than 2007.
The second reason is that former Diff'rent Strokes co-star Todd Bridges says he has a different will -- a secret will no less -- that spells out what Coleman really wanted. It doesn't appear to favor Price, and Bridges says it certainly doesn't name Coleman's parents (from whom Coleman was estranged because they stole money from his trust fund -- according a court of law that ruled in favor of Coleman after he sued his parents).
Bridges also says that he believes Coleman is entitled to a handsome pension from his acting days, just like Bridges gets, and that Coleman did not make arrangements for Shannon Price to receive this money.
So does Shannon Price have any financial ties to Coleman? According to the executor, Mial, she sure does. He accuses Price of selling death-bed photographs of Coleman, from the hospital, to Globe Magazine. He also says she was raiding his home of personal property.
Price at first denied selling the pictures, but a spokesperson later backed off, admitting she really needed money.
Price also vows to fight for the handwritten will and for her claim in the Coleman Estate.
And she plans to spread his ashes on a train track, because he loved trains. We doubt Mial, the estate executor, will let that happen, because he's in charge of Coleman's final arrangements. At least, he is in charge until the "secret will" is filed with probate.
All this drama and we're only a week and a half past the day Coleman died. What's going to happen next week?
Celebrity estate battles seem to be growing in frequency. While they are interesting to read about, they can also be educational and help your family avoid fighting in probate court like the celebrities' heirs. Want to find out how? Trial & Heirs can help.
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.Follow us on Google+