Wills are legal documents intended to dictate how someone wishes to distribute their assets after he or she passes on, but for various reasons, family members of the deceased sometimes have reason to contest a will's contents. The process has obvious complications, with perhaps the most obvious being that the author of the will is no longer available to answer questions about why certain assets were allocated certain ways. This can cause considerable strife within a family, and this is particularly true when one family member receives more than another for reasons that aren't immediate apparent. If you are trying to legally contest a will, you may find it useful to understand the following four commonly cited reasons for doing so.
Iron Range businessman Jeno Paulucci may be best known to Twin Cities readers by way of his legacy of popular food products. The Hibbing native earned his fortune through the success of brands including Chun King, Jeno's Pizza Rolls and Michelina's frozen meals. The nearly simultaneous death of the entrepreneur and his wife has led to an eight-month long dispute over the administration of family trusts valued at an estimated $100 million.
Some of our Twin Cities readers may unfortunately have experienced the type of disagreements that can arise among siblings over the distribution of parents' estate assets. Both testators and estate planning professionals often do their best to draft estate plans that provide clear direction and avoid conflicts, but even well considered plans sometimes leave room for probate disputes.
A recent case of probate litigation in Hennepin County may determine whether a Twin Cities resident should be entitled to claim an inheritance from his long-time partner and same-sex spouse in the absence of a will. The couple married in a state that recognized same-sex unions. The case before the probate court questions whether Minnesota's Defense of Marriage Act prohibits recognizing a same-sex spouse as the legal heir of a deceased partner.
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.
Minnesotans considering trust litigation may want to consider the case of a wealthy polo club owner. The entrepreneur established an irrevocable trust naming his two biological children as beneficiaries. He also appointed a wealth management firm to oversee the administration of the trust. Because the trust is irrevocable, the polo club owner has no authority to remove the wealth management company as trustee. Claiming to have lost confidence in the company's management, the entrepreneur elected to adopt his adult girlfriend in order to make her a beneficiary of the trust. Through this adoption, the entrepreneur gave his 42-year-old girlfriend the legal authority to challenge the administration of the trust and potentially replace the wealth management firm with a new trustee.
Science-fiction fans in Minnesota are probably well-acquainted with the author Philip K. Dick. The author, who died in 1982, wrote many popular science-fiction novels in his lifetime, and many of those novels have since been made into movies. However, the trustee of his estate has now filed a lawsuit against the makers of the blockbuster movie "The Adjustment Bureau," which is based on Dick's short story "Adjustment Team."