The Importance Of Wills: Family clashes over $3 million Derzon estate

Our California readers who have a comprehensive estate plan will understand the importance of wills. Our post today highlights the importance of an up-to-date will as part of an estate plan.

A recent dispute about a will is playing out in probate court. An estate estimated at about $3 million includes cash, collectible assets and a family-owned store that brings in a monthly income. According to news sources, there are two wills connected to this estate and each has questionable issues — the patriarch’s will and his second wife’s will.

The first disputed issue relates to the patriarch’s will. He was 83 in 2007 when he died. Prior to his death he revised his will leaving everything to his second wife of 30 years. He was allegedly advised that his wife could do whatever she wanted with his estate, including cutting the patriarch’s two sons out of the will. His state of mind at the end was in question.

The second issue relates to the second wife’s will. The second wife ran the family business after her husband’s death. In her will she left 60 percent of her estate to her husband’s two sons and 40 percent to her half brother. After her husband’s death the second wife became despondent and irrational and eventually died of an accidental overdose just less than one year after her husband died.

Prior to her death, an estranged half sister came back into the picture and the second wife’s will was changed three months after her husband’s death. The revised will left the half brother a $500,000 trust and $1,800 per month allowance and gave the remaining estate to the half sister’s two daughters and half brother’s two daughters. The business was split between the half sister (75 percent) and a good friend of the half sister (25 percent). The half sister runs the business earning about $400,000 per year and the friend earns about $160,000. The patriarch’s two sons got nothing.

A will dispute is pitting the two sons and the half brother against the half sister. Did the half sister use undue influence to change the second wife’s will? Did the patriarch know what he was doing when he left everything to his second wife rather than directly to his two sons?

The dispute is currently in probate court and apparently each side thinks it is winning the battle.

Source:¬†The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Battle of Wills: Family clashes over $3 million Derzon estate,” Cary Spivak, July 14, 2012

At our law firm we help clients with estate planning issues including California wills and will disputes.