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Godfather of Rap estate dispute a cautionary tale for Minnesotans

Twin Cities jazz and rap fans may be dismayed to learn of shady dealings in the estate of Gil Scott-Heron, who died in May 2011 at the age of 62. The man who penned "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" would undoubtedly cringe to know that his recent Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award comes in the shadow of an unseemly family dispute.

According to the filings in pending probate litigation, the half-sister of the influential poet and musician allegedly conspired with her mother and grandmother to siphon over $250,000 dollars out of Scott-Heron's personal bank account shortly after his death.

The musician's son, acting on behalf of the estate, filed suit seeking the return of the missing money along with an additional $2 million in punitive damages. The son claims that the women took advantage of a limited power of attorney to misappropriate funds in a case of apparent self-dealing. According to the lawsuit, the women forged the musician's name in order to transfer money from an account set up to receive royalty payments into an account linked to the women's address.

The turmoil surrounding Scott-Heron's estate illustrates how basic estate planning tools can be abused by the very people entrusted to preserve an estate for heirs and beneficiaries. In the wrong hands, even the devices intended to protect an inheritance may become a liability to the wishes of a loved one.

Minnesotans who find themselves faced with a probate dispute will want to do everything legally in their power to preserve or recover estate assets and make certain those assets pass to the rightful beneficiaries.

Source:, "Bitter fight over Grammy winner Gil Scott-Heron's estate," Barbara Ross, Feb. 28, 2012

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