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Famous Estate Planning Battles

As a Folsom estate planning lawyer, I closely follow estate planning news and updates so that I can better serve my clients. As part of this research, I sometimes come across famous estate planning battles that are taking place. Estate planning battles involving high-profile individuals often capture public attention due to their complex legal issues, large estates, and, in some cases, family disputes. Here are a few famous estate planning battles:

  1. Prince: The musician Prince passed away in 2016 without a will, which led to a protracted legal battle among his siblings and other potential heirs over his multi-million-dollar estate. The lack of a will complicated the distribution of his assets.
  2. Michael Jackson: The “King of Pop” Michael Jackson’s estate faced numerous legal battles following his death in 2009. There were disputes over the validity of his will, the appointment of executors, and allegations of financial mismanagement.
  3. Anna Nicole Smith: The estate of the late model and actress Anna Nicole Smith was embroiled in a long legal battle for a share of her late husband J. Howard Marshall’s estate. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, highlighting the complexities of estate disputes.
  4. James Brown: The “Godfather of Soul” James Brown’s estate faced significant legal disputes and challenges after his death in 2006. The primary contention was over the distribution of his assets, including music rights and intellectual property.
  5. Aristotle Onassis: After the death of Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, there were legal disputes over his estate involving his daughter Christina Onassis and his widow Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
  6. Leona Helmsley: The “Queen of Mean,” Leona Helmsley, left a significant portion of her fortune to her dog, Trouble, in her will. This decision triggered legal battles and controversy, ultimately leading to a reduction in Trouble’s inheritance.
  7. Brooke Astor: The estate of philanthropist and socialite Brooke Astor became the subject of a bitter legal battle between her son, Anthony Marshall, and other family members over allegations of financial exploitation.
  8. Mickey Rooney: The late actor Mickey Rooney, known for his iconic film career, faced financial exploitation and elder abuse, which led to legal battles in his later years. These legal disputes centered around the mismanagement of his assets.
  9. Maurice R. Greenberg: The former CEO of AIG, Maurice R. Greenberg, was involved in a legal dispute with his former company and the state of New York over a deferred compensation plan.
  10. Tom Clancy: The estate of bestselling author Tom Clancy faced legal battles among his surviving family members over control of his literary works and his $82 million estate.


These estate planning battles underscore the importance of clear, comprehensive estate planning, which can help prevent disputes and legal challenges. Proper estate planning, including a well-drafted will, living trust, or other estate planning documents, is essential for ensuring your assets are distributed as you intend, minimizing tax liabilities, and avoiding costly and divisive legal disputes among heirs. If you have any questions about estate planning or are seeking the guidance of an experienced Folsom estate planning lawyer, contact Thapar Law at 916-579-0605 or send us a message

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