Muhammed Ali's Estate: The Final Fight?

Can my will withstand a contest?

He could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, but the outcome of what may be Muhammed Ali’s final fight may come down to whether he dotted all of his “I”s and crossed all of his “T”s. Or at least whether his attorneys did.

Celebrities like legendary former heavyweight champion Ali and rock royalty like the late Prince, are as fascinating in death as they are in life. With multimillion dollar estates on the line, the administration or probate of celebrity estates can turn into long, ugly, heated contests to rival the most famous battles in the ring, especially if they died without a will or trust—or if their estate planning documents were not handled properly.

Unlike Prince, who apparently died without leaving a will or trust, and without any surviving spouse or known children, Ali left a surviving spouse (his fourth wife, actually) and at least nine known children including one adopted son. Because Ali meticulously planned his funeral down to the smallest detail, it is speculated that a will or trust likely will surface outlining his wishes for the distribution of his assets.

When you die without a will (called “intestate”), as Prince did, your assets are distributed in accordance with your state’s intestacy succession statutes which generally provide for your assets to go to your closest relatives (i.e. spouse and/or children) first, if any, whether you would have wanted that or not. In Prince’s case, these appear to be his sibling and half-siblings.

Assuming Ali had a will that specified how his assets should be distributed, there may still be a contest as to its validity by anyone with standing to inherit under a prior will (which the current will may have allegedly replaced) or under intestacy if the current will is deemed invalid. In the case of celebrities, children--illegitimate, unknown, or disinherited—often come out of the woodwork making claims against the estate. Rumor has it that at least one of Ali’s children may be considering a contest.

Popular grounds for contesting a will include that the maker lacked the proper mental capacity at the time of the will and/or that others exerted undue influence over the maker. With Ali’s known battle with Parkinson’s disease, the timing of the will’s execution in reference to his deteriorating mental capacity may be a factor to consider in a contest.

There are many nuances to estate planning, and not just for celebrities. For example, specific language prepared by an experienced estate planning attorney and included in the will can mean the difference between knocking out claims by legitimate and illegitimate children in the first round and fighting those claims to the final bell.

Who’s in your corner?

The Round Rock, Texas law firm of Gerald Winters, P.C. has extensive estate planning experience. Security for your family’s future and peace of mind for your golden years may be only a phone call away. Call 512-270-3807 today for a consultation.

Posted in Wills

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