The late rock-and-roll singer Tom Petty did the recommended planning for his legacy and estate before he died in 2017 and yet a year-and-a-half later, his last wishes are still being fought over in court.

The case shows that, even with the best of intentions, wills and estates are complicated and take a great deal of planning, said Amanda DiChello, a trusts and estates attorney in private client services at Cozen O’Connor in Philadelphia.

In Petty’s case, the rock star, who died of an accidental drug overdose one week after finishing a tour, left the decision making about his estate to his widow and his two daughters from an earlier marriage in “equal participation.” He set up a trust with his wife, Dana York Petty, as trustee. But now the daughters are claiming the widow is not giving them enough control over what happens to Petty’s music legacy and his on-going business interests.

There is also a question of what “equal participation” means, said DiChello. Does that mean each of the three parties gets to participate equally in the decision making or that the widow and daughters split the decision making fifty-fifty? In a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, the daughters, Adria Petty and Annakim Violette, are asking for $5 million in damages plus attorney's fees.

The plaintiff in the suit is Tom Petty Unlimited, a limited liability corporation formed last year to manage the musician's assets after his death. The entity controls Petty's rights as a recording artist, composer, publisher and producer and oversees his memorabilia, equipment, musical instruments and other financial assets.

“In this context, Petty did his pre-planning, but it is surprising how many people, including celebrities, die without an estate plan or with an ambiguously worded plan,” DiChello said. “This is a recipe for disaster. The cases of Prince and Aretha Franklin are perfect examples.”

Soul singer Aretha Franklin reportedly died with several handwritten wills and rock star Prince died without a will or estate plan of any kind. Singing legend James Brown married four times, fathered nine legitimate children and at least three illegitimate children, which practically guaranteed the family feuding that followed his death, DiChello noted.

A financial advisor should make sure his or her clients have a good estate plan and, where any foreseeable fight might arise, he or she should make sure all future possibilities are considered, DiChello said.

“Many people feel they can trust their spouses and children. Often there is peace between first and second spouses and children before someone dies, but it may not stay that way after death.

“However, as an advisor, all you can do is point out the situations where a client should make a decision; the client may not pay attention,” she said. “That is going to lead to costly litigation.”

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