Once again, we have the story of the estate of a beloved celebrity becoming the subject of litigation. Just a couple of weeks ago, we discussed the battle between Robin Williams’ wife and children over the terms of his trust. High-profile cases like this one show that, when a decedent leaves behind a large estate, the chances of a contest in probate court may be higher than for the average estate.
This time, the case involves baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, who died in January at age 83. His family, including his children and estranged wife, are contesting a will that Banks signed a few months before his death that left his entire estate to his caretaker.
Banks apparently was not living with his wife at the time of his death, nor were any of his children living nearby. The beneficiary of the estate is a woman who helped care for Banks, who was suffering from dementia.
The new will states that Banks was leaving nothing to his wife and children “not for a lack of love and affection for them and for reasons best known by them.” On their part, the family says they were not aware of the new will before Banks’ death.
They plan to formally contest the will in court. It appears they will argue that the beneficiary took advantage of Banks’ age, mental condition and dependency on her. In Florida, undue influence over the testator is a valid reason to find a will invalid.
Will contests over the estates of less well-known, but wealthy decedents happen all the time. Parties on both sides of the controversy will likely need an experienced attorney to help them make their case.