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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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$19.6 million in Steve McNair's Estate, and 1 wild claim

I've written articles before about the mess that murdered NFL quarterback Steve McNair left behind because he died without a will.  I had predicted a possible fight between his widow and the two minor children from prior relationships, because she didn't list them as heirs on the probate filing.  The official story from the McNair camp is that they have to file claims with the Estate to be recognized as heirs, which they haven't yet done even though they both have attorneys representing their interests.Steve McNair 2

My personal view:  it was inappropriate not to list the two kids, and perhaps his widow, Mechelle McNair, realized it afterward.  Regardless, it now appears that the children won't have to fight to prove they are entitled to inherit, at least for now.

But even with one fight avoided, the Steve McNair Estate is far from easy.  First, there's the matter of what's in the estate.  His widow's attorney recently filed an inventory listing estate assets at around $19.6 million.  Most of this money (about $16.9 million) was invested in stocks and bonds.  McNair also owned at least two corporations, one of which was a cattle business called McNair Farms, Inc.  (Quarterbacking and cattle farming does go hand in hand, doesn't it?)


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Steve McNair's agent says not to expect an estate fight

In my prior article about the Steve McNair Estate, I explained how the former NFL star apparently died without a will.  I also warned of a possible probate court dispute because his widow did not list his two children from a prior relationship as heirs in the probate court filing.

This raised a huge red flag because, under Tennessee's intestate law, they are entitled to approximately one-third of his assets that pass through probate court.  There was no good reason to omit them from the probate documents unless McNair's widow was considering challenging their right to inherit as legitimate children of the murdered quarterback.Mcnair

McNair's agent recently addressed these concerns in an interview with the Associated Press carried on  James "Bus" Cook said that Mechelle McNair (the widow) is not trying to exclude the two older children, but didn't list them because she didn't have proof they were actually his kids. 

Cook reported that the proof had later been provided, meaning that she would recognize them as legitimate heirs and they would inherit.  He cited "well-documented legal history in Mississippi" as the source of the proof.  In legal proceedings there, McNair was apparently ordered to provide child support.  Cook notes McNair paid support over and above what was ordered.

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Steve McNair died without a will

It's a tragic story all around.  Steve McNair had it all -- fame and fortune from a successful career as an NFL quarterback and a beautiful wife with two kids, as well as two kids from a prior relationship.  He was widely respected for being a fierce competitor who worked hard to get the most of his skills.  In 2003, he became the first African-American quarterback ever to win an NFL most valuable player award.Steve_McNair

But, McNair's life had a secret, dark side too.  On the Fourth of July of this year, he was shot and killed from four gunshot wounds, in a condominium in Nashville, Tennessee. A young woman, reported to be his girlfriend, was found dead nearby.  The Nashville police consider it to be a murder-suicide.  They believe she killed McNair and then took her own life.   McNair was only 36 years old.

Obviously, McNair's wife and four young children are now forced to come to terms with this terrible tragedy.  To make the situation worse, they won't be allowed to grieve in private and try to move on with their lives.  Instead, it will take them much longer to put this awful situation in the past because McNair wasn't prepared for his untimely death.

The Associated Press reported today that McNair died without a will.  His wife was forced to hire a probate lawyer and file to open the estate this week on an emergency basis, because his estate needs to be administered.  The court filing in a Nashville, Tennessee probate court indicated the value of his estate was not yet known.  The probate judge granted McNair's widow the legal authority to administer the estate. 

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George "The Gipper" Gipp lawsuit clarification

The following is an email I received about my recent blog post, Michigan Court tells Gipp relatives they can't "Win one for the Gipper."
"I read your recent blog on the internet about the George Gipp DNA court fight.
George Gipp

I was one of the 8 defendants in the Gipp lawsuit you wrote about. Your story was very balanced, however, I need to correct 2 of your facts.

One, ESPN was invited there to document this as a news story for both ESPN and ABC-TV. There were only 3 cameras there -- not 8 as you note in your story. Because this was such a unique story, the Gipp family felt it was important to invite a very credible news organization to document what was happening.

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Michigan Court tells Gipp relatives they can't "Win one for the Gipper."

As a Michigan probate litigation attorney, I have been involved in my share of strange cases (like one involving funeral home imposters stealing a body from a hospital morgue).  This one is right up there.  In October 2007, family members gave permission for the body of the famed Notre Dame football player George Gipp ("the Gipper") to be dug up for DNA testing to determine if he had unacknowledged heirs.  George GippSpecifically, Bette Bright Weeks was born 5 days after Gipp died and Gipp's family members granted permission to determine if Weeks' daughters were actually Gipp's granddaughters.

Gipp died in 1920 at age 25, from pneumonia and strep throat.  His Coach, Knute Rockne, used his death in a famous locker room speech, and the "win one for the Gipper" phrase gained widespread popularity when used by Ronald Reagan (who had played Gipp in a movie) in his presidential campaign. 

Two distant cousins of George Gipp, Karl and Ronald Gipp, filed the lawsuit hoping to win back some dignity for Gipp, they claimed, because they were apparently aghast at the way the body was dug up.  They claim it was done with a backhoe, not shovels, and the resulting carelessness was destructive and even dug up Gipp's sister (buried next to his body) by mistake.  They were especially bothered by the fact that ESPN was invited to film the whole thing -- with eight film cameras, they claim.

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