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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Future of billionaire's estate may hang on 1 share of stock

Even as far north as Minnesota, people have heard of the professional football team called the "Saints" and may have heard of the professional basketball team called the "Pelicans." These teams have been owned for a long time owned by a Southern billionaire. Unfortunately, his family is now locked in trust litigation that may depend on who owns one share of stock.

Like many other cases, the dispute seems to involve the children of the billionaire by a prior relationship and the billionaire and his current wife. At one point, the billionaire and his former wife owned several valuable car dealerships and owned them according to a 50-50 spit in company stock. While the plan had been to leave these businesses to the children, the billionaire announced that he would instead be leaving the dealerships and other businesses to his current wife. The dealerships may be worth over $100 million.

According to two receivers, court-appointed experts charged with investigating this case, the billionaire obtained one more share of stock in the car dealerships by trading 20 shares of stock in another company. This gave the billionaire all-important control of the company as the majority shareholder.

The problem is, according to the receivers, that the billionaire's former wife owned those 20 shares that were trade, meaning that the beneficiaries of her trust actually would have equal control of the car dealerships and an equal say in how they are disposed.

The outcome of this case could greatly impact what this billionaire's children and current wife receive as an inheritance. This case is a lesson for Minnesotans that oftentimes seemingly little details, like the ownership of one share of stock, can have a profound impact during probate litigation. Those who are unfortunately caught in trust litigation or other probate disputes may want the assistance of a legal professional who will pay attention to and carefully investigate all details of the case.

Source: San Antonio Express-News, "Mystery ownership share emerges in Benson estate fight," David Hendricks, March 13, 2015.

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