When men and women become concerned about how the people they love in life will be cared for and how the assets they have cultivated in life will be distributed after their death, they may execute a will. A will may be carefully drawn up in an attorney's office or scribbled on the back of a napkin. And although the individual who has created the will may intend for the document to have a completely binding legal effect, the individual's loved ones may find themselves disputing its creation, contents or practical consequences in the wake of the individual's death.
Minnesota families sometimes set up trust funds to help their children or grandchildren with their financial needs after they're gone. These can be a great way to keep a sense of family legacy together through generations. However, the work involved doesn't end once all the documents are signed and dated. The trustee must perform its duty to the trust principal and the beneficiaries must not interfere with each others' rights to the fund. When something goes wrong, it can lead to lawsuits over misuse of funds.
Minnesota music fans may have been following the battle surrounding singer James Brown's estate. A recent court ruling means that the saga is far from over.
A judge recently approved a settlement in a three year long dispute over the estate of the man behind the development of shopping malls throughout the Midwest, including St. Paul and other parts of Minnesota. Melvin Simon, who founded the Simon Property Group, died at age 82 in 2009. Since his death, the mall developer's estate has been at the center of a bitter will contest involving his daughter, her stepmother and the estate's court appointed trustee.
Golden Gophers fans throughout Minnesota certainly appreciate the value of good game day tickets, but most probably do not expect football tickets to be the fuel of a dispute over the family inheritance. Many sports organizations build provisions into their ticket licenses that expressly describe limitations on transferability or inheritability. For one diehard football family, however, ownership of perpetual season tickets appears to be the number one sticking point in a will contest that has lasted more than a decade.
Twin Cities music lovers may have felt inspired to root for Bruce Willis in the role of hero dad upon hearing rumors that the action star recently announced his intention to sue Apple in order to be able to include his iTunes library in his daughters' inheritance. The story certainly piqued the interest of every reader familiar with the fairly substantial investment that can go into amassing a respectable digital music library.
As Minnesotans know, older adults can be especially vulnerable to financial exploitation, and sometimes, if coercion or undue influence is suspected to have affected a person's end-of-life wishes, disputes can arise that lead to will contests and other kinds of litigation.
Many Twin Cities residents maintain online accounts that hold all manner of personal data, including pictures, bills, bank statements, emails and other sensitive records. And, as readers in Minnesota may be aware, online accounts can potentially cause probate disputes should the account holder become deceased. That is, unless an end-of-life document names a trusted individual to use the necessary passwords and handle the online content. Additionally, businesses such as eBay and Etsy store transaction records online, so if a deceased person has funds in that sort of account, then the funds may continue to float there, inaccessible, if a trusted person isn't named in the deceased person's will. All of these issues could potentially cause problems in probate.
Minnesota residents who are preparing their wills should take heed of a recent case out of New Jersey. The case speaks to the need for proper will administration, as a lack of attention to detail can leave heirs squabbling.The litigation involves the will administration of an Austrian-born researcher. In his will, he left most of his estate, a sum estimated at $700,000, to an "Israeli Symphony Orchestra." Oddly, though, the executor of his estate cannot find any orchestra in Israel with that name.