Could a trust have solved Tom Petty’s estate battles?

Tom Petty, the world-renowned singer-songwriter, passed away in 2017. His beneficiaries include two adult daughters and a wife. His wife at the time of his passing was not the mother of his children.

Like most blended families, the death of the uniting factor — in this case the spouse and father — has led to strife between the mother and her step-children.

Was Petty’s estate prepared? Mr. Petty took the time to put together an estate plan. In an attempt to retain some privacy, he included a trust that appears to have granted his wife control over the estate, with input from his daughters. If properly administered, a trust can avoid probate and allow the estate to remain private.

Unfortunately, Petty’s estate will likely go to probate and not remain private. Citing disagreements between herself and her step-daughters, Mr. Petty’s late wife has filed a petition with the court requesting court supervision over the execution of the estate.

What went wrong? Although it is sentimental to include loved ones in the execution of the estate, it does not always translate to a smooth transition, nor result in your desired wishes. The journey of Petty’s estate provides valuable lessons, particularly for those whose estate will have business interests or other avenues for future revenue.

The most notable lesson is that of management. When it comes to future earning potential of an estate, firm management may be best. Leaving heirs the ability to share control of these decisions can result in discord and, as the case in for the Petty estate, court battles that negate many of the benefits of the estate plan.

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