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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Famous photographer's estate in inheritance dispute

The death of a loved one often causes a mix of emotions and stress. In addition, family members will have to deal with their belongings and assets. Residents in Minnesota understand that his can often stir up disagreements between beneficiaries, especially when in comes in inheriting a large amount of property or assets.

An inheritance dispute is growing over the fortune of the late photographer Bert Stern, pitting his three children against his much younger widow. When he died earlier this year at age 83, Stern's will left most of his $10 million estate to his wife and threatened to disinherit anyone who questioned the will. Despite that, the children are challenging the will anyway in hope that the court will divide the estate according to an earlier will which left more to them.

Most might not know the photographer by name, but many have seen Stern's images of Hollywood stars such as Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn that earned him a place in the National Film Registry. His nude photos of Marilyn Monroe, taken for Vogue magazine a few weeks before her death, made him millions of dollars.

Stern's widow, 44, said she married Stern in 2009, but the couple didn't tell many people about it. A will executed in 1997 called for most of Stern's property to be divided equally among his three children, but a will executed in 2010 pours over most of his estate into a trust controlled by his wife.

When a will leaves most of an estate to a new, much younger spouse, it raises the question of whether the person leaving the will was being exploited or coerced. This question could be especially relevant in cases in which the marriage was not widely known. In these cases, it is important that proper investigation is conducted in order to support the claim that the will was not valid.

Minnesota residents may have questions like this about the wills of their own family members. When this happens, it's important to seek out guidance and opinions about their legal rights and options.

Source: New York Post, "Marilyn photog's inheritance fight," Julia Marsh, Sep. 23, 2013

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