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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Probate dispute follows lottery winner's suspicious death

The bizarre circumstances surrounding the death of a once lucky businessman may be enough to make some Twin Cities readers reconsider their hopes of winning the lottery. A story that originally made news as a case of good fortune soon turned dark amidst suspicions of murder and, more recently, as an illustration of how a failure to plan ahead can lead to bitter probate disputes.

Urooj Khan, the owner of several Chicago area dry cleaning businesses, thought his ship had come in when he drew a winning million dollar lottery ticket last summer. However, the 46-year-old died just days before he was set to receive a lump sum payout. His death was initially determined to have resulted from natural causes. After a family member insisted that police take a second look at the cause of death, new tests revealed that the man had been the victim of cyanide poisoning.

Although the subsequent murder investigation has not yet identified any likely suspect, the questionable circumstances of his death have led to a heated family dispute over the administration of the businessman's estate. The businessman died without a will and his brother and sister have pursued efforts in probate court to remove his second wife as executor of the estate and assume guardianship of his daughter from a prior relationship.

If the ongoing murder investigation implicates the businessman's wife, she may be prevented from inheriting any of his estate by virtue of the state's slayer statutes. Under state law, the wife would not necessarily have to be convicted or even charged with homicide to be barred by the slayer statute. For the time being, however, she has been allowed to stay on as executor of the estate.

Whatever happens with regard to the slayer statute, bickering seems likely to continue among the prospective heirs and beneficiaries of the estate. Under state laws of intestacy, the businessman's daughter stands to receive at least half of an estimated $1.2 million estate at age 18. The man's brother and sister may yet have something to say about the wisdom of that potential outcome.

Source: Forbes, "Unsolved Murder of Chicago Lottery Winner Sparks Family Feud," Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Jan. 28, 2013

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