Most people living in Oklahoma don't have to worry about managing an inheritance valued at about $40 million. Regardless of what the value might be, estate administration requires careful attention and understanding to assure heirs are properly protected and compliant through the probate process.
For the children and widow of a wealthy coffee baron, inheritance issues are still not settled after nearly five years. Reportedly, the children's mother, the deceased man's first wife, entered into an agreement with him prior to divorcing that provided the children would inherit the coffee company and property upon his death. It was allegedly signed by both of them in 1984. The document can't be found however. Based on this agreement, the children filed a lawsuit against the man's second wife last October.
A jury found the agreement did exist and awarded three of the children $7.44 million in damages—far short of the nearly $30 million demanded in the complaint.
An interesting turn of events occurred that requires the plaintiff children to make a decision. The Judge in the case offered them the option to accept the jury's award, or choose to take the company, mansion and farm in lieu of the money. Included in the order is a fourth child who had not originally been part of the suit, but joined in the litigation in November.
According to their counsel, it is likely the heirs will elect to accept the Judge's offer of the business and property. In March they will begin a civil suit against their stepmother for restitution of the millions of dollars allegedly spent by her since their father's death.
Family businesses, homes and property can be emotional ties to lost loved ones. Evaluation of each individual's needs and expectations will help to determine the best strategies for solid wealth protection in an estate plan. Contentious litigation is a last resort to resolving inheritance issues within a family. If needed, however, the courts are there to provide solutions and remedies that will allow for the best outcomes possible.
Source: AL.com, "Cash or father’s coffee company? Heirs to Leroy Hill empire get options" Michael Dumas, Jan. 21, 2014