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5 famous celebrity Wills that have been disputed

When it comes to having your wishes respected after you have passed away there is one document that is essential and that is your Will.

We have often encountered clients who have either forgotten to complete a Will or their Will is contested by friends, family or others who believe they are entitled to some or all of the deceased party’s estate.

While every dispute doesn’t make the headlines, there are those in the public eye who have seen their Will contested or disputed.

Below we’ve compiled a list of 5 of the most famous and most interesting Will disputes to have occurred in the past few decades.

1. Martin Luther King Jr

It is well documented that Martin Luther King Jr’s children have not always seen eye to eye.

The executor of Mr King’s Will was Dexter King, one of his sons, and the Will was challenged by two more of his children who accused Dexter of wrongfully appropriating from their father’s estate.

Dexter refused to show the two challengers financial records and other documents that divulged in-depth detail of the estate’s operations.

The family again fell out over a dispute surrounding Martin Luther King Jr’s travelling Bible and his Nobel Peace Prize medal.

The argument here was between two of his sons and his daughter who claimed to have been left the two assets.

A court ruled that this wasn’t the case and a settlement was agreed, details of which have remained confidential.

2. Jimi Hendrix

The rock god is a perfect example of why you need to make a Will specifying what you want to happen to your estate in the event of your death.

When Jimi Hendrix died in 1970 he left behind an estate valued at approximately $80 million.

Unfortunately, he hadn’t made a Will and this pitted his half-brother against his adopted sister for control of his assets and his estate.

Initially, an attorney had control over Jimi Hendrix’s estate until 1995 when his father gained the rights to his son’s music and a large part of his estate.

When his father passed away, Jimi’s father left most of the estate to his daughter and Jimi’s adopted sister Janie.

Jimi’s half-brother was not written into Jimi’s father’s Will, and as a result, Jimi’s half-brother contested the Will, suggesting that Janie had manipulated her father into excluding him from the Will.

In the end, The Superior Court in America upheld Jimi’s father’s Will and his half-brother remained excluded.

3. Nina Wang

Nina Wang was Asia’s richest woman with a reported fortune of £7.1 billion.

After her death, her partner Peter Chan made a claim that he should inherit her estate along with all of its financial assets.

Unfortunately for Mr Chan, his claim was refuted and her full estate went to charity after she died of cancer in 2007.

In another twist, Mr Chan was later sentenced to 12 years in prison after it was discovered he had tried to forge Nina Wang’s Will.

4. James Brown

James Brown is the second musical icon on this list.

He left behind an estate worth $100 million after he died in 2006.

His Will stated that his estate was to be separated into two trusts, one for the education of his grandchildren, and the second for the disadvantaged youths of South Carolina and Georgia.

Brown clearly stated in his Will that he hadn’t mistakenly left anyone out of the Will.

Despite this, his wife and children contested the Will in 2009 and were awarded $50 million.

5. Liliane Bettencourt

Liliane Bettencourt might not be a household name, but she is in actual fact the heiress to the L’Oreal fortune and was officially France’s richest woman.

Her estate is said to be worth $40.9 billion and in 2010 her daughter claimed that her mother did not have mental capacity.

The basis for the claim was the fact that her daughter claimed that she had given photographer Francois-Marie Banier approximately £1 billion in gifts over 20 years.

The case is yet to be resolved and the outcome is imminent after the death of Ms Bettencourt in September 2017.


There we have it. 5 famous names who have seen their Wills disputed.

These cases highlight the need for a Will to ensure that your wishes are upheld should the worst happen.

They also highlight the fact that it’s important to create a Will whilst your mental capacity cannot be doubted.

We here at Thorneycroft Solicitors are experts in creating Wills as well as Lasting Powers of Attorney.

Our team of Wills, Trust and Probate solicitors are led by a member of STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners) who has over 20 years experience in drafting Wills.

If you would like to know more about how you can create your Will or how to amend it, we offer a free initial consultation.

To arrange an appointment please call us today on 0800 1979 345 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of our team will be in touch.

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