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Famed pop star’s estate preparations didn’t forestall problems

We make a preliminary and quite direct point concerning estate planning on our website at the Georgia law firm of Miles Hansford & Tallant. We stress in a recent blog post that, “Depending on the state and what the heirs want, probate can take anywhere from three months to several years.”

Guess which direction the estate of famed rock-and-roll icon Tom Petty is headed?

We surmise that many readers of our estate planning blogs know much about Petty and his famed career as front man for the mega-popular and long-enduring Heartbreakers. Legions of Georgia music lovers likely have their own personal stash of the band’s music.

Petty died at 66 in late 2017. He reportedly commanded sizable business acumen, so it was not surprising to hear that he executed an estate plan prior to his passing.

Unfortunately, and based on numerous recent national stories, Petty’s planning wishes aren’t being realized even remotely.

Media accounts point to a trust that Petty executed before he died. It mandates the “equal participation” of the artist’s second wife and two adult daughters from a first marriage in managing business affairs. Widow Dana York Petty states that she is the sole trustee and that the above-quoted words essentially mean the mutual consent of all parties in decision-making matters.

Daughter Adria Petty thinks otherwise, arguing that the phrase posits two-thirds majority over the trust in her and her sister. Petty’s widow recently filed a lawsuit in probate court alleging that Adria is making an unlawful power grab to wrest control of the trust. Petty’s daughter acted quickly in the wake of that litigation, filing her own petition that demands control over her father’s vast musical catalog.

The case is broadly instructive from an estate planning perspective, even if it does spotlight the affairs of a legendary entertainer. It underscores a point we centrally note at our law firm, namely, that, “No matter how thoroughly a passed loved one has planned, disputes can arise in will, trust and estate matters.”

Timely and on-point estate administration input from a proven legal team can minimize the potential of that happening.

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