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Family and widow of late boxer in international probate dispute

Minnesotans probably know that preventing probate litigation is often a meticulous matter involving careful thought about one's assets and their distribution. That may be especially true when a will involves a great many assets. With these issues in mind, readers in the Twin Cities may be interested to hear of a will contest involving parties from across national borders. What makes the case complex are the apparently conflicting end-of-life wishes expressed by a late boxer from Brazil. Now the boxer's young widow is in a probate dispute with his family, who allege that the young woman had schemed all along to acquire the boxers' wealth.

Arturo Gatti was a well-known Brazilian boxer who passed away in 2009. Three years earlier in New Jersey, Gatti met a young woman 14 years his junior and fell in love with her. Soon they were married, and they had a child shortly afterward. Terrible as it may seem, members of the Gatti's family have alleged that his wife murdered him while they were on vacation in Brazil.

Complicating matters, the boxer apparently wrote two separate wills. The first one was signed by him in 2007. That document indicates that all of Gatti's assets will be left to his mother, his younger brother, and his daughter from a prior marriage. But a second will was apparently signed by Gatti weeks before his death, and that document instructs that all of his assets should be left to his widow. The boxer's family has claimed undue influence, saying that Gatti's widow somehow coerced or tricked him into signing a second will. The family has taken their claims to probate court in both the United States and Canada. Already, a Canadian court ruled in favor of the widow, yet fees for the litigation have already used up a large chunk of the inheritance.

This story may serve as a kind of cautionary tale for individuals and families in Minnesota and Wisconsin who would like to avoid the headache of probate litigation. It is possible to make changes to a will to make certain that it reflects precisely one's end-of-life wishes. But when family members or spouses suspect undue influence, or that a vulnerable adult has been taken advantage of, usually the best course of action is to consult with a legal professional who is familiar with the law as it pertains to such matters as wills, undue influence and probate litigation.

Source: The Gazette, "Arturo Gatti's widow wins inheritance court case," Sue Montgomery, Dec. 16, 2011

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