Doris Duke’s Estate Battle -- Why Contesting A Will Is Sometimes Necessary Most people have heard of the concept behind a Will contest, yet most have never been involved in one. A Last Will and Testament cannot be challenged simply because a potential beneficiary is not happy with what he or she received under the terms of the Will. A Will contest is intended to bring to light something that actually invalidates the Will itself, such as that the testator did not have the mental capacity necessary to execute the Will or that someone unduly influenced the testator at the time the Will was signed. Both of these were among the challenges to the Will of Doris Duke. Doris Duke was the heir to a tobacco fortune. Born in 1912, her father died when she was only 13, leaving the majority of his $100 million fortune to Doris and her mother. Although Doris married and divorced twice before her death in 1993, she had no biological children. At the time of her death, the family fortune had grown to $1.3 billion. Shortly after her death, a Last Will and Testament was presented for probate. It was executed just weeks before her death and named her butler, Barnard Lafferty, as the executor of her estate. While that was enough to raise questions, additional terms of her estate plan also gave Lafferty almost complete control over her estate -- something that anyone with that kind of money typically does not do. Numerous Will contests were filed. Among them was one by Harry Demopoulos, Duke’s friend and former physician. Demopoulos was also named as the executor in her pervious Will. Demopoulos was convinced that Duke was not in her right mind when she executed the Will. Evidence presented to the court showed that Duke was heavily sedated during the weeks leading up to her death and was essentially cut off from anyone outside of the house. Demopoulos was offered a large settlement to drop the Will contest but turned it down. After a three year long court battle, which included over 40 lawyers at a cost of about $10 million to Duke’s estate, the probate judge ruled in Demopoulos’s favor and removed Lafferty as the executor. Sometimes, contesting a Will is necessary when a family member or loved one is convinced that the Will does not accurately reflect what the testator would have wanted. Experienced estate planning attorneys St. Louis MO of the Purcell and Amen, Attorneys at Law – Your Estate Matters, LLC offers estate planning and business planning resources to residents of St. Louis MO. To learn more about these free resources, please visit http://www.yourestatematters.com today.
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