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September 2010

John Steinbeck heirs fighting 40+ years after he died

American icon John Steinbeck, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and Pulitzer Prize, having authored such classics as Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden, died at age 66 in 1968.  Even a mind as creative as his likely couldn't have envisioned a fight over his property continuing to rage more than 40 years after he died.John_Steinbeck_1962

When he died, much of his estate passed to his third wife, Elaine (whom he married in 1950).  He did  not specifically include the literary rights to his works, so they passed under the residual clause in Steinbeck's will, to Elaine.  Elaine, in turn, died in 2003.  She left those rights and other property to her family members, excluding Steinbeck's children.  This included her husband's summer home in upstate New York, which passed to her sister, Jean Boone.

The New York Times recently wrote an interesting article about the lawsuit by the children against Boone and others, which sought to reclaim the house and obtain compensation from Elaine's heirs.  Initially, Steinbeck's living son and granddaughter had sued the publisher which owned the publishing rights to his works, trying to reclaim them for his descendants.

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Katherine Jackson brings wrongful death lawsuit against AEG

When Joe Jackson sued for the death of his son Michael Jackson, Katherine Jackson initially said she wanted nothing to do with it.  Now Michael's mother, who is also the guardian of his children, has started her own lawsuit against the concert promotion company that, she claims, pushed Michael to his death. KatherineJacksonMichael_LG

Katherine's lawsuit blames AEG for the King of Pop's death and seeks damages on behalf of Katherine and Michael's children.  You can download and read the lawsuit here courtesy of

Among other reasons, it accuses AEG of negligently hiring, failing to supervise and controlling Dr. Conrad Murray, the doctor who has been criminally charged for causing the death by using Propofol (and other drugs) to help Michael sleep, when it was not medically appropriate. 

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Eliza Presley case is delayed

Eliza Presley's lawsuit to prove that she is the daughter of the late Vernon Presley, father of Elvis Presley, based on DNA evidence (which also would show that Elvis is alive) was supposed to take a big step forward a couple days ago.  Here's my prior article about the case that explains it

There has been a delay. Elvis-presley

The same lawyer who tried to oppose Eliza's initial lawsuit (which successfully caused the Estate of Vernon Presley to be re-opened) is now attempting to intervene in this lawsuit.  He filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss Eliza's lawsuit on legal grounds, such as the "statute of limitations" (meaning that too many years have passed, he argued, since Vernon died) as well as that Eliza was adopted by another family (he argued the adoption means she can't become a legal heir of Vernon).

He does not provide any evidence to dispute the facts behind Eliza's claims.  He doesn’t even try to contradict the DNA evidence she’s presented to the court.

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Huguette Clark guardianship; another Brooke Astor case?

Huguette Clark is a 104-year mysterious and reclusive New York multi-millionaire whose situation bears a striking resemblance to that of the late Brooke Astor.  Like with Astor, Clark is now the subject of a guardianship proceeding in New York brought by relatives who fear that she has been financially exploited.  Clark's fortune is estimated to be worth half a billion dollars.  Huguette Clark

Clark is the daughter, and only surviving child, of William Andrews Clark, who died in 1925 and was described as the first or second richest American at that time.  He built his wealth through copper mining and served as a senator of Montana.  Many believed his daughter had died long ago.  Indeed, she hadn't been seen in the Fifth Avenue apartment that she lived in (and still owns) in 22 years.

An Investigative Reporter for recently published a lengthy two-part article about Clark and how she has resided alone, in an ordinary New York hospital room, for those 22 years, while her attorney, Wallace Bock, and accountant, Irving Kamsler, managed her finances and reportedly barred her distant relatives (including half-nieces and half-nephews) from visiting.

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Bill Davidson's estate settles lawsuits

The Detroit Free Press featured an article recently about the lawsuits surrounding the estate of the late owner of the Detroit Pistons, Bill Davidson.  You can read our prior article about the estate here.Bill Davidson and Pistons

The estate of the late William Davidson has been the target of at least three lawsuits seeking to wrest at least $20 million from the fortune left by the billionaire businessman and owner of the Detroit Pistons -- a hazard that one attorney said is the result of being very rich and dead.

Of the three suits filed in Oakland County Circuit Court, all have been quietly settled, according to court records and attorneys involved. Details of the settlements have not been revealed.

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