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Probate and Estate Litigation Blog

Conservative icon's family fighting over inheritance

Minnesota residents may have heard of Phyllis Schlafly, who rose to prominence over 50 years by fighting on behalf of very conservative causes. Her family members are now embroiled in a legal fight that began with politics and spilled into their inheritances.

Ms. Schlafly died on September 5 at age 92. Before her death, her family was already in a dispute over last year's Republican primary that may have led to this legal battle.

Phyllis Schlafly publicly supported Donald Trump while her daughter objected to this endorsement. Board members of Ms. Schlafly's conservative think tank, the Eagle Forum, supported her daughter while her sons supported Schlafly. Litigation involving these siblings and the Foundation ensued when board members claimed that a politico unduly influenced Schlafly's candidate endorsement.

Ms. Schlafly's daughter, filed another lawsuit after her mother's death over the inheritance. Her action was filed against 17 beneficiaries of the Phyllis Schlafly Revocable Trust, including minor children in the family.

In her suit, she claims that she first learned after her mother died that she amended her trust to remove her daughter as a trustee which left her brother John as the sole trustee. She also claims that the trust was later amended to pay any litigation expenses from her inheritance.

She also claims that her brothers intentionally misrepresented her actions to induce Ms. Schlafly to amend the trust. Ms. Schlafly's daughter alleges that her brothers, apparently with the former police officer in the other dispute, exerted undue influence over their mother to pressure the daughter to abandon her participation in the other ongoing lawsuit.

Emails were disclosed that showed discussions among the brothers and the politico concerning strategy over this fight. An e-mail discussed that they should go for the jugular and a no-hold barred attack on Ms. Schlafly's daughter even if it publicly exposed this family dispute. Another email contained a discussion over offsetting litigation expenses by making a recommendation to their mother that legal expenses come from her daughter's inheritance.

Andrew stated this his sister's lawsuit was frivolous. He claims that it was filed merely to have someone else bear the cost of more than $1 million in legal fees that were expended.

Parents may assure that family disputes do not continue, or start, after their death. An attorney can assist with creating an estate that helps assure that property is inherited by their loved ones without litigation.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Schlafly daughter alleges brothers sabotaged her inheritance in ongoing family fight," Kevin McDermott, March 22, 2017

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