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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Artist's family continues court battle

The family of a famous artist who succumbed to the effects of a stoke and cancer last year is now in the midst of a court battle in which they are challenging a will that they say does not truly reflect their mother's intentions. Because this artist is nationally known, both in her own right and as part of a family of distinguished Native American artists, some residents of Rochester, Minnesota, may have heard of her.

As their latest move, the children of the woman have now sued an attorney who drafted the mother's most recent will. They argued that the lawyer fell short in his professional duties.

Specifically, they contend that their mother never wanted to leave the amount of property that her last will ultimately specified to her second husband, who is the children's stepfather. The children, who are young adults now, point to the woman's 2006 will, in which the woman left her paintings, intellectual property and other valuables to her children. Although, they were to receive this property in stages as they got older.

It is true that the woman had a prenuptial agreement when she married her second husband. In 2015, she made another will that left almost everything to her second husband who, the children contend, has a history of engaging in bad, even dishonest business deals.

The children's new lawsuit claims that the lawyer who drafted the new will, at the request of the second husband, did not evaluate their mother's mental ability to make a will. In addition, they argue that they did not do a serious investigation to the facts and circumstances of the woman's estate or her previous estate plans. The lawyer proceeded, even though the artist was ill and had recently suffered a stroke.

As this case illustrates, whether a person with a lot of money was taken advantage of when writing a will is often a question raised in probate litigation, including litigation here in Minnesota. In these types of cases, the experience of a probate litigation attorney can prove to be very helpful.

Source: Santa Fe New Mexican, "Artist's children file malpractice suit in estate battle," Andrew Oxford, March 25, 2016.

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