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Court battle over estate may be coming to a head

A court battle over an estate pending in one of Minnesota's neighboring jurisdictions has taken a rather mysterious turn, as a judge disclosed what he called "explosive" news to several attorneys involved in the litigation, but then ordered the information kept under seal, that is, secret from the general public. The issue revolves around the ownership of a packing company, a family business founded by a now deceased entrepreneur. It seems from a series of estate planning documents, including wills, corporations, and trusts, that the man wanted one of his daughters to run the business after he died.

However, several of the daughter's brothers and sisters have challenged the daughter's handling of the estate's affairs, including the affairs of the family business. The woman has since been removed from managing the estate's business and has been replaced by outside business consultants. She also has been removed as trustee from several trusts her father created. At this time, the court's goal appears to be to sell the business and distribute it among the estate's heirs so that each one gets the inheritance to which they are entitled.

The "explosive" news to which the probate judge alluded was not described in detail, meaning its impact on the ensuing probate litigation is not clear. However, the judge did revoke his decision to relax his orders requiring the daughter have no contact with her son, who is also involved in the family business.

The estate in question is likely worth millions of dollars, although the affect of the litigation on the value of the estate is not clear, since at least one of the attorneys will be able to collect fees from the value of the estate. If anything, though, this case illustrates how complicated and stressful probate litigation can get, especially when one considers the broad powers of a probate judge. Many Minnesotans may find that the assistance of an experienced probate litigation attorney is essential when dealing with these types of issues.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Stakes rise in fight over Oak Creek firm," Bruce Vielmetti, Nov. 30, 2016.

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