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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Dispute over Hall of Fame baseball player's estate goes on

Although the parties involved were reportedly close to resolving their differences, it now appears that the ongoing probate dispute over the estate of baseball great Ernie Banks, a Hall of Fame player who may be a familiar name to Saint Paul, Minnesota, baseball fans, will continue for the time being.

The dispute is between the former player's friend and caregiver, who under the current will inherits all of the player's property, and the player's widow. The widow was estranged from Banks at the time of his death and a divorce proceeding was underway. However, because Banks died before the divorce was finalized, the widow was legally married to Banks at the time of his death and thus stands to inherit, unless the player's will states otherwise.

Although the sides had reported progress toward a settlement, attorneys for the widow abruptly asked to withdraw from the case recently, citing fundamental differences between the attorneys and their client. Although obviously frustrated by the development, the judge hearing the case granted the motion and gave Ms. Banks the standard three weeks to hire a new attorney. All sides seemed to acknowledge that whatever tentative deal had been reached was now in danger of falling apart completely. One source close to the case suggested that the reason the attorneys withdrew was that Mrs. Banks was unwilling to agree to a revised version of a settlement, even though her own attorneys thought the revisions were a good idea.

The parties are arguing about the validity of Banks' latest will, the one that presumably was in effect at the time he died. The will left everything to his caregiver and was made just a few months before he died. The widow is challenging Banks's competency to make that will and also accused the caregiver of unduly influencing Mr. Banks.

If anything, this case illustrates that inheritances can become contentious affairs, particularly when accompanied by lingering marital or family issues. Minnesota families caught in a probate dispute may find it helpful to get more information about their own unique circumstances.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Proposed settlement in fight over Ernie Banks' estate dealt blow," Jason Meisner, Sept. 21, 2016

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