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Real estate tycoon's heirs and beneficiaries in dispute

James F. Cotter died in 2017. Known for his real estate empire and cowboy lifestyle, he suffered a cardiac arrest, leaving behind five children and a wife. Cotter's heirs and beneficiaries are in the midst of an acrimonious legal battle over his estate.

They're not the only ones involved, however, as the Internal Revenue Service and various lenders and creditors are also eager to resolve some important issues. Surprisingly, the 83-year-old tycoon reportedly died without signing a valid will. A little more than a year before he suffered a fatal heart attack, his estate was valued at $288 million.

Cotter's real estate legacy comprises nearly 70 properties in six different states. A probate judge appointed someone to oversee his estate. However, that promised to be a challenging task because Cotter's books were said to be very unorganized.

Supposedly, Cotter's death made it so almost every one of his mortgages were launched into default as he had personally guaranteed the loans. Several of the properties were filed as bankrupt upon his death to prevent them from being foreclosed. Dying without a last will and testament is known as being intestate, which leads to the probate process where the court determines -- based on Illinois statutes -- how a decedent's assets should be distributed. Time will tell what the court determines is the best course of action regarding the heirs and beneficiaries of James F. Cotter; in the meantime, each person involved in the dispute may seek his or her own legal representation to ensure that his or her personal rights and best interests are protected.

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