March 26 2012
5 Most Contentious Celebrity Estate Battles
As mentioned in a wisdom-filled song by Notorious B.I.G. and an artist then known as Puff Daddy, "the more money we come across, the more problems we see." Sadly, this is true even in death, as evidenced by the publicly waged battles amid family and so-called friends of some of the nation's most famous deceased actors, singers, politicians, and businessmen. Here are a few that have given the tabloid rags plenty of fodder to feed their gossip-starved readers.
Michael Jackson - It's no secret that Michael harbored resentment against his father Joe and had strained relationships with his siblings. When the time came to distribute his trust, those feelings were evident, as his mother Katherine and three children were named — and that was it. Joe has claimed that he's owed a sum, and has attempted to remove the estate's administrators to no avail, which makes sense given that he's supposed to have nothing to do with the estate.
James Brown - Never short on vigor, the death of Brown came as a shock despite his age. He was set to make multiple New Year's Eve performances just a few days later, and was confident he would until his final day. Amid the massive tribute that followed for the Godfather of Soul, a battle emerged between his six adult children and Tomi Rae Hynie, the companion of Brown and mother of James Brown II. The older children were named in his will, and Hynie and Brown, the latter of whom was younger than the will, were not. Although Brown's adult children stressed that she wasn't legally married to their father, Hynie was awarded 25% of his estate, the same amount as the adult children.
Jimi Hendrix - Many 27-year-olds think they're indestructible, and thus aren't thinking about what would happen to their assets — if they have any — if they were to die. Hendrix, the ultimate free spirit, couldn't give a flip about that stuff, let alone his life, resulting in a tooth-and-nail fight over his estate a quarter-century after his death. In 1995, his father Al sued a California attorney who had managed Jimi's estate. When Al died seven years later, control went to Janie Hendrix, his adopted daughter. Left out was Leon, Jimi's half brother, who sued for his piece of the pie. The step-siblings' loveless dispute ended with the judge upholding Al's final will, changing nothing.
Marlon Brando - One of the Hollywood's most talented and eccentric figures of the 20th century, Brando had a reputation for making things difficult on and off the set. Less than a year after his death, his former business manager filed a suit for unlawful termination and sexual harassment, and his personal assistant sued for the home Brando purchased for her, and subsequently kicked her out of, in his final months — the personal assistant won her case. Surprisingly, none of his eight children have challenged for a bigger share of their own, so he must have done something right.
Martin Luther King Jr. - Although King preached unity, his family has been fractured in recent years. In 2008, son Martin Luther King III and daughter Bernice King sued their brother Dexter King for improperly taking funds from his father's and mother's estate. As executor of the estate, Dexter failed to provide his brother and sister with important documents relating to the estate, including important financial records. The family settled the dispute out of court in October 2009, but it's unlikely Dexter has spent recent Thanksgivings and Christmases with his siblings.