Need for New York Estate Planning Highlighted in Celeb Family Dispute

March 7, 2012

A dispute involving the family of the late Gil Scott-Heron, a Grammy award-winning musician and poet, entails numerous allegations of illegal actions in an effort to seize control of his multimillion dollar estate.

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While most family estate disputes in Great Neck don't involve famous singer-songwriters, bitter accusations can quickly dissolve relationships, as well as any chance of peacefully resolving the issues at hand. This is why it is important to have a New York family law attorney at your side.

In this case, reports the New York Daily News, the 62-year-old Scott-Heron, perhaps most famous for the tune "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," died last year. He had four children, who have begun battling out the details of his estate in court.

The singer's only son is now accusing his half-sister, as well as her mother and grandmother, of stealing an estimated $250,000 from business accounts belonging to his father. As the temporary executive of the estate, Scot-Heron's son has said that such withdrawals of the account were not authorized, and therefore illegal.

He accused his half-sister of forging his father's signature in order to take the money. He also said his half-sister's grandmother broke the law to use her documented power of attorney to take the money. This all reportedly happened just weeks before he was named as administrator of the estate.

Additionally, he says his father's former mother-in-law stole another $60,000 from his father's checking account. He is suing not only for the money lost, but another $2 million in damages.

The allegations get stranger from there. In one accusation, Scott-Heron's son also alleges the women also seized his father's body from the hospital, and then refused to allow him to say a few public words at the funeral.

Scott-Heron's former mother-in-law denies each of the claims, saying she "wouldn't be that dumb."

Whether any of this is true should be sorted out in court.

We understand that often in cases of disputes among family, the issue isn't really about the money. It becomes a principal of the matter, and a battle between what is right and wrong.

This case also underscores the need for people to plan their estates well in advance of their passing. We understand you never know what can happen from one day to the next, so it is very important to be prepared. An experienced family estate attorney can help you accomplish this.

It's important to consider the following issues:

1. Do you have a will and a trust? Have you designated a durable power of attorney and health care power of attorney? That latter two are important for making financial and health care decisions on your behalf if you are ever incapacitated. The former deals with what will happen to your assets after you die. A trust, in particular, is important if you have minor children who will need to be looked after.

2. Even if you do have these documents, they may not be worth much if they are outdated. Make sure that these documents are updated to reflect your current marital status, as well as any children or grandchildren you may have had since the document was created.

3.You need to make sure that beneficiaries are properly designated on any property you may own, as well as any life insurance or retirement accounts. It is possible for an ex-spouse or older parent to receive these benefits - as opposed to the current spouse and children - if these documents are not properly prepared and updated.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides estate planning help in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or contact us through the website.

Additional Resources:
Bitter fight over Grammy winner Gil Scott-Heron's estate turns into a public family feud, By Barbara Ross / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

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