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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Auto icon's remains linger in limbo of probate dispute

The mention of Carroll Shelby most likely stirs a bit of reverence in many Twin Cities residents who admire the legendary muscle cars bearing the iconic name of the engine designer and former race car driver. The automotive legend died last month after a life spanning 89 years in diverse pursuits that included several marriages. Unfortunately, a final resting place for the renowned race car driver may have to wait until the resolution of probate litigation involving a family dispute over authority to make burial arrangements.

The driver's wife asserts that she has authority to decide the manner of his burial pursuant to a power of attorney executed in 2010. She raised questions of undue influence when she stated that the driver's children made efforts to deprive her of access to her husband near the end of his life.

Shelby's three children claim that he executed a document only a few months before his death, instructing that he be cremated and his ashes divided four ways. Each child would receive one third of the ashes, and the fourth portion would be scattered over a burial plot in the driver's home state of Texas. Shelby's wife insists that the new document is a forgery, but the children say they can produce several witnesses to its execution.

Even if they cannot produce witnesses, the Shelby's children seem to be in a better position than the wife when it comes to legal authority over burial decisions. Under the laws of most states, including Minnesota, a power of attorney only grants decision-making authority during the principal's lifetime.

If Shelby's children are represented by reasonably competent legal counsel, it seems likely that they should be able to resolve the dispute quickly and get their father's body released from the morgue for proper burial.

Source: Star Tribune, "Auto designer Carroll Shelby's family in dispute over burial plans; body still in Texas morgue," Nomaan Merchant, June 19, 2012

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