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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Sons win undue influence claims in $3 million will contest

Twin Cities readers who followed July's story about an estate dispute over a collectibles business valued at nearly $3 million may be interested to learn that the venerable memorabilia dealership has reopened its doors. An August court ruling in favor of the business owner's sons brought the heated will contest to a close and gave the sons an opportunity to devote their efforts to marshaling business assets.

The court battle focused on claims of undue influence over the business owner's wife by a half-sister and former employee. The owner's sons surprisingly found themselves in the position of disinherited heirs owing to a rewrite of the wife's will in the months following the owner's death.

The wife's original will bequeathed a 60 percent interest in the business to the owner's two sons and a 40 percent interest to the wife's half-brother. The rewritten will cut out both the son's and the wife's half brother and instead conveyed a 75 percent interest to her half-sister and a 25 percent interest to the former employee.

The sons challenged the validity of the rewritten will on claims that the owner's wife had been subjected to improper coercion during a time in which she was depressed, abusing prescription drugs and drinking to excess. In its August ruling, the court invalidated the second will and reinstated the terms of the wife's original will.

The death of a spouse can be devastating for a surviving spouse. Unfortunately, especially when a substantial estate is at stake, the vulnerability of a surviving spouse presents a prime target for unscrupulous would-be heirs. Minnesotans with concerns about potential undue influence may benefit from consulting with an attorney experienced in matters of inheritances and probate litigation.

Source: Journal Sentinel, "Derzon Coins reopens," Cary Spivak, Oct. 22, 2012

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