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The Real Heartbreaker – Probate Court Battles Over Tom Petty’s Estate



Legendary rocker, Tom Petty, passed away in October 2017 from an accidental overdose.  The world mourned the loss of a great talent and yet another musician gone too soon.  Tom Petty had an estate plan (surprised?) in place that put his two daughters from his first marriage alongside his widow in charge of his assets. But alas, the three women are not getting along (surprised?).

There are cross claims of mismanagement, wastage of trust assets, and sullying of the Tom Petty’s legacy between the daughters and Petty’s widow. As a dedicated reader of this blog, surely you must be wondering why there is so much public drama since Tom Petty listened to his estate planning attorney and created an estate plan that included a trust. An estate plan is created to avoid drama and litigation. Or is it?

Yes, dear dedicated reader, an estate plan is created to avoid probate, family drama and litigation, among other things.  However, your estate plan must account for family dynamics, which can be complicated and even unpleasant in blended families, like Tom Petty’s.  Tom’s two daughters from his first marriage appear to strongly disagree with Tom’s widow (his wife of 10 years at the time of his death) on almost all matters related to his trust, including issues like whether or not Tom’s name and image should be used on a line of salad dressings.

The key to avoiding this kind of heartbreaking situation is to discuss your family dynamics frankly with your estate planning attorney.  Tom would have done well to recognize the strained relationship between his wife and his daughters. Had he discussed this with his estate planning attorney as well as his wishes for his legacy (no condiment branding), his attorney would have been able to draft his trust in a manner that likely could have avoided most of the drama and legal fighting.

While not all family drama and litigation can be avoided in an estate plan, it is possible to anticipate problems and plan accordingly. The current public fighting between Tom Petty’s daughters and wife was largely avoidable and therefore really is the ultimate heartbreaker.  Don’t be petty. Contact your estate planning attorney today and have a frank discussion about your legacy, your family dynamics, and what condiments you want to carry your name.

(Photo courtesy of Mr Bullitt [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)])

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