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Fraud claims haunt concert promoter's estate

Bill Graham may be familiar to Twin Cities residents as the concert promoter that helped bring bands like Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and the Rolling Stones to prominence in the 1960s and early 1970s. In a case filed in probate court nine years after his death, the promoter's legacy now stands in the shadow of probate litigation over the value of his heirs' inheritance.

The promoter's sons accused the estate executor of self-dealing during probate administration. The sons say the executor failed to share information about the sale of rock memorabilia, including a trove of original concert posters, to a company managed by the executor. The sons claimed that the executor fraudulently hid the estate assets from the probate court and that the sons only learned about the sale when looking through old company documents in 2009.

Although the probate court recently ruled that the sons' claims had no merit and ordered them to pay more than $500,000 in legal fees, the sons have expressed their desire to appeal and extend the litigation. In addition to a finding of no merit, the probate court also concluded that the sons waited too long to file their lawsuit and that their claims were barred by the statute of limitations.

Minnesotans may know that an estate administrator owes a fiduciary duty to beneficiaries to make a full inventory and disclosure of estate assets, but tracking estate assets can become especially complex when administration involves business interests. Even under the watch of a well-intentioned executor, confusion or miscommunication can lead to probate disputes.

Because claims against an estate administrator may be restricted by statutory time limits, beneficiaries of complex estates will want to file any such claims with care and in a timely manner.

Source: sfgate.com, "Bill Graham's sons ordered to pay legal fees," Bob Egelko, April 3, 2012

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