Will Making & Family Claims

A recently released report suggested many wills are later contested. As Making a will is a common way of transferring assets across generations the larger the estate, the higher the tensions; when Prince died earlier this year 29 people claimed to be relatives in an attempt to share in his $500 million estate.

Howard Marshall II was more famous as an earlier investor in Koch Industries before his notorious  1994 marriage to Anna Nicole Smith – who was 62 years his junior. When Marshall died aged 90, in 1995 he left his entire estate to his son Pierce Marshall. Despite a jury ruling that Marshall was mentally fit when he left the detailed instructions in his will – Smith embarked on a protracted legal battle for a portion of his estate.

Although Anna Nicole died in 2007 it took a further seven years for a judge to dismiss all claims made on behalf of Smith to Pierce Marshall’s estate in 2014, noting that the legal claims had been going on for almost 20 times the length of the marriage!

Similarly when Richard Pratt known as Australian ‘cardboard king’ and former Carlton Football club, died in 2009 he left clear instructions for the division of his $5 billion estate. Shari-Lea Hitchcock, his former mistress with whom he had a daughter, made a claim on the estate in 2010. Following protracted legal proceedings, Hitchcock and her daughter reached a settlement with the estate. Another mistress, Madison Ashton also came forward claiming that Pratt promised her a $500,000 a year allowance and a $5 million trust for her children. The court agreed that a conversation stating those terms had taken place between Pratt and Ashton, however that didn’t mean at she was entitled to a portion of his estate.

We have posted about the battle around Howard Hughes’ Will following his 1976 death. He had no direct heir to his fortune and left no verified will. A number of unofficial documents surfaced including a handwritten one known as the Mormon Will pledging $156 million of Hughes’ $2.5 billion estate to a man who owned a remote petrol station and who claimed he had once given a stranded Hughes a lift.

A number of people came forward claiming to be illegitimate children, as did women claiming to have been married to Hughes.When the estate was eventually settled, a large portion went to Hughes’ cousins and distant relatives.

Iron Ore Magnate Lang Hancock died in 1992, the estate wasn’t settled until 2003 following a drawn-out court battle between Hancock’s daughter Gina Rinehart, and second wife Rose over $30 million worth of assets given to Rose. Gina accused Rose of contributing to her father’s death while Rose claimed Gina paid witnesses to provide false testimony against her. In 2003 both parties agreed to a settlement, the details of which were kept private.

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