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Mary Cunningham Agee wading through turbulent probate litigation

Business women advocates in Illinois and throughout the nation may relate to the many challenges Mary Cunningham Agee overcame when she was climbing to the top of the corporate ladder in the 1980s. Nowadays, many people know Agee as "The Tomato Lady" for her work out West growing heirlooms and herbs. That title comes after 35 years of marriage to Bendix Corp. CEO William M. Agee and the scandalous stories that threatened her reputation at every turn. Such tales have recently resurfaced amid acrimonious probate litigation between the widow and her stepchildren.

As one of the first women in corporate America to hold an executive position in a Fortune 100 company, Agee was pelted with rumors and accusations saying she must have seduced the man who would later become her husband. She rose above what she calls extremely unfair bias and false allegations often launched against women in a business world that catered to men. However, it seems her husband drafted a new will before he died, resulting in one of his adult children from a first marriage seeking the court's intervention to determine what should happen to her father's assets.

Agee says her husband exhibited many erratic behaviors in the weeks prior to his death that were caused by severe dementia. Others claim the estate owner was completely of sound mind when he died. Reportedly, there was never an official diagnosis of incompetence.

Approximately $7 million was placed in trust before the business mogul died. Agee is the trustee. It's a highly complex probate litigation situation that involves fragile emotions on both sides. While most Illinois residents may not be heir to millions of dollars worth of assets, some may currently be struggling to resolve similar familial disputes for which they may seek counsel from experienced probate attorneys.

Source:, "Before there was #MeToo, there was Mary Cunningham", Amy Chozick, Feb. 19, 2018

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