Tuesday, June 11, 2019
The late Tom Petty took the advice of any estate planning attorney and wrote a detailed estate plan, yet over a year-and-a-half after his sudden death in 2017, his family is still fighting over what those instructions truly mean. Amanda DiChello, a trusts and estates attorney in private client services at Cozen O’Connor in Philadelphia, points out that even with the best of intentions, wills and estates are complicated.
The rock-and-roller instructed that the management of his estate (and sizable music catalog) would be left to his widow and two daughter from a prior marriage in "equal participation." But what did Petty intend by the word equal? Does that instruction mean that 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? The daughters, Adria Petty and Annakim Violette, filed a suit in Los Angeles against their step-mother, Dana York Petty, claiming that they are entitled to more control and are asking for $5 million in damages plus attorney's fees.
A financial advisor should make sure his or her clients have a stable and unambiguous estate plan and if a fight is foreseeable, he or she should make sure all future entanglements are considered. “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," DiChello commented.
See Karen DeMasters, Tom Petty's Estate is in Chaos—and That's With a Will, Financial Advisor, June 5, 2019.
Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.