B.B. King acknowledged 15 children from 15 different women during his life. 11 of the children survived him. Yet the executor of B.B. King’s estate and the trustee of his Trust is not one of his children – it is his business manager LaVerne Toney, who had been consistently on his side for 40 years. Since B.B. King’s death and even before that time, the extended family has been fighting against her.
The children first accused Toney of mismanagement and of poisoning their father. When that lawsuit was thrown out of the court, they accused her of not honoring B.B. King’s wishes by not giving them money outright. They are also disputing the value of B.B. King’s estate: Toney believes that the total value is between $5-$7MM, while the children believe it is closer to $300MM. The litigation can take years.
The case is further complicated by at least 3 other people, who, since B.B. King’s death, have claimed to be B.B. King’s children. If they can prove this, they will be entitled to a share in the estate, on par with the other children. Of course, it can be difficult to prove paternity by a child from outside of marriage – the courts want to prevent the entire world claiming a share of the dead man’s fortune.
It is very hard to plan against family discord. Yet it is possible. For example, B.B. King could have prevented a lot of this fighting by creating separate trusts for each of his children, thus eliminating the need to fight for the rest of the money. He also could have put in his documents very strong language that disinherited anyone who brings a lawsuit against the estate.
While most people do not have 15 children who may be fighting over the estate, family discord is a very common theme in estate litigation, whether between two siblings or ten. There are methods of minimizing these fights.
Disclaimer: This article only offers general information. Each situation is unique. It is always helpful to talk to a specialized attorney, to figure out your various options and ramifications of actions. As every case has subtle differences, please do not use this article for legal advice. Only a signed engagement letter will create an attorney-client relationship.