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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Family members contest will of murdered hotel mogul

Some Minnesota residents may travel south during the late winter or early spring this year in order to take a break from 2014's bitterly cold winter. While on vacation, some may have stayed at the famous Fontainebleau hotel that is located in a resort area in a southern state. Those who have seen this hotel may be interested in the ongoing developments of a red-hot will contest among the family members and the other associates of the man who was once heir to this famous hotel.

The twist in this story is that the man who was to inherit a fortune via the hotel was murdered, shortly after his mother died under suspicious circumstances months earlier. Eventually, the man's current wife was arrested for being involved in the murder. She was convicted of hiring assassins to kill the man so that she could quickly access the man's fortune.

The wife was sent to prison for life in 2012. Moreover, although the man's will left everything to the wife who hired people to kill him, the relevant state law prohibits a person who helped cause a death to benefit from that same death via any type of inheritance. Minnesota also has a similar law, which is called a "slayer statute."

Nevertheless, even disregarding his wife, the man's fortune will still pass to the wife's daughter and grandsons. Many people, including a supposed illegitimate child, have come forward to challenge the will. For example, some of the man's family members are saying that the will should be invalid because the wife unduly influenced the man to draft his will via threats. Others have suggested that the "slayer statute" should prevent both the wife and her descendants from inheriting.

When people die under tragic or suspicious circumstances, emotions can run raw, and costly will contests can ensue. In this case, the man's estate is now estimated to hold less than half of its original $10 million value.

Source: Anchorage Daily News, "As family fight continues, fortunes of Fontainebleau estate shrink," Julie K. Brown, Feb. 23, 2014

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