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Lake Forest Illinois Trusts and Estates Law Blog

Heirs and beneficiaries of James Brown lock horns over legacy

Soul music icon James Brown entertained rock and roll music fans in Illinois and throughout the nation for decades. At the age of 73, the "Godfather of Soul" passed away in 2006. Since then, those who believe themselves to be his lawful heirs and beneficiaries have been engaged in a contentious battle in probate court. The situation has only escalated in the past 12 years, and several cases are now headed for federal court.  

Brown's legacy situation is quite complex, and those involved would be hard-pressed to try to go it alone in court. When complications arise regarding a final will and testament, it is always best to seek experienced legal support. In this particular case, nine of Brown's children are battling over their father's estate and, in particular, copyright laws. The woman who claimed to have been his most recent wife (who has a son with Brown) says she is fighting for all that she is entitled to in her late husband's $100 million estate; she also says he erred in forgetting to add her and her son to his final will.  

2Pac estate administration litigation finally resolved

Rap music fans in Illinois and elsewhere no doubt recall the death of a man who was once held in high honor as an industry icon. On stage, he went by the name 2Pac and in the wake of his death, a legal battle ensued that took five years to resolve. The mother of 2Pac is the one who initially filed the estate administration claim against the Entertainment One company regarding unreleased music of her son.  

She was famous in her own right as an outspoken activist. When she filed the claim against Entertainment One, she stated that the company owed her royalties that would amount to seven figures. The problem is that she, too, died before the case was resolved.  

Trust beneficiaries: Does your trust have a fraudulent trustee?

Trusts are named "trusts" because they create a legal contract that the trust creator and his or her beneficiaries rely on. This legal contract lays out specific instructions, and names a trustee who is legally bound to follow those instructions -- all for the benefit of one or more parties: the beneficiaries.

If you are the beneficiary of a trust, and you believe that the trustee who is managing the trust assets is committing fraud or negligence, you may want to look into your legal rights and options immediately.

What if someone tries to keep wills and trusts secret?

In Illinois and all other states, executors and trustees have fiduciary duties toward certain others. When someone has a fiduciary obligation, he or she must act on behalf of the estate owner in question in an honorable and transparent manner. This would, of course, include keeping all heirs and beneficiaries informed regarding wills and trusts or litigation pertinent to an inheritance.

Sadly, family discord often occurs if someone contests a will or if the person or people named as executors or trustees do not do their job in a forthright manner. That appears to be the case in a situation in another state where the mother of three sons recently sought advice because she believes her children are being denied their rightful inheritance. The situation involves her mother-in-law's estate.  

A clause that can prevent feuds between heirs and beneficiaries

Illinois estate owners, in particular those who are parents, have no way of knowing how their loved ones will act once they die. While no one wants to think that his or her heirs and beneficiaries will fight over the belongings the estate owner leaves behind, it occurs far more often than might be expected and can lead to permanent rifts between family members. There are several ways to help loved ones avoid such problems, however.  

Surprisingly, the items that are fought over most often are not typically those worth the most money. To the contrary, it is the seemingly insignificant items that hold no more than sentimental value that often cause the most contentious battles among heirs, especially siblings. If one person claims that a parent wanted him or her to have a specific item but another says he or she was told the same thing, it can lead to nasty disputes that take weeks or months to resolve. Parents can help their adult children avoid such problems by adding a written clause to their final wills that states that any assets that become involved in disputes are to be immediately placed up for sale.  

Durable financial power of attorney: Choosing an agent

Do you have concerns about what will happen to your finances in the event of an incapacitation? No one wants to think about this, but planning for the future is the responsible thing to do.

Without a durable financial power of attorney, you never know what could happen if you're incapacitated and unable to make decisions on your own. Fortunately, you can add this to your estate plan to give you and your family the peace of mind your deserve.

Wills and trusts topics of discussion after Burt Reynolds' death

A court in another state was the location where Hollywood superstar Burt Reynolds' final will was filed recently. The actor passed away suddenly after a 911 call reported that the 82-year-old male was having breathing trouble and was suffering chest pains. Rescue workers arrived and transported Reynolds to a hospital, but he did not survive. As sometimes happens when wills and trusts are filed in Illinois, there were a few surprising details attached to Reynolds' case.

Millions of Burt Reynolds fans were saddened by the recent death of the movie star. Since then, some have been surprised by the news that Reynolds appointed his niece as executor of his estate rather than his own son. He also appears to have explicitly omitted his son from his final will.

Rush Enterprises subject of probate litigation battle

W. Marvin Rush, II, built the largest commercial truck enterprise in the United States. With 100 truck centers spanning more than 20 states, Rush left a legacy when he died that included shares worth more than $70 million at the close of a recent stock market day. The problem is that his widow, who happened to have been his third wife, and his son, W.M. Rush, III, are engaged in probate litigation that has become quite acrimonious.

Rush's son says his father signed a last will in 2006 that states he is the sole beneficiary of the stock shares. However, Rush's widow said her husband signed two other wills since then, revoking everything in the 2006 document. In fact, she says he did not stipulate to whom the stock shares in question should pass, which means they are included in his residual estate, which she stands to inherit in its entirety.

Know when it's time to take over your parent's decisions

If you're caring for a parent and potentially their estate, knowing when they're no longer of sound mind is important. Legally speaking, you may only have the right to take over making decisions once you can show that your mom or dad does not have the capacity to make good decisions or to understand the facts of a case.

One of the biggest issues with the elderly is a risk of dementia. Dementia is a little difficult to diagnose, because there are many medications and symptoms that mimic the disease. However, if your parent already has a condition such as Alzheimer's, then you know that you have to monitor them carefully for dementia as well.

Heirs and beneficiaries: No will often leads to legal problems

Soul music fans in Illinois and throughout the world are mourning the recent passing of Aretha Franklin. Her music topped the charts for years and continues to touch the hearts of millions. Franklin died at age 76, after battling pancreatic cancer. As often happens in situations where people do not execute last wills before they die, Franklin's potential heirs and beneficiaries may face complications.

Franklin, known affectionately by her fans as the Queen of Soul, was the mother of four sons. She was also said to have been involved in an on-again-off-again relationship with one particular man. The 71-year-old man worked as a firefighter and is known for his long-term friendship with the superstar.

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