Estate litigation is not easy under ordinary circumstances. However, if your heirs have to fight over what is in your estate, it becomes even more difficult. Under ideal circumstances, you will know what’s in your estate long before you pass away. However, if you have an ongoing dispute with another party, then your estate might have to continue the dispute.
Consider the cases of the heirs of Joel Shuster and Jerry Seigel, who passed away in 1992 and 1996 respectively. If you do not know who those two men are, you certainly know their creation: Superman. Shuster and Seigel claimed during their lives that they were unfairly cheated out of their rights to Superman by DC Comics – now owned by Warner Bros. Unfortunately, the litigation did not end during their lives and it is still ongoing. Recently, Seigel’s heirs were awarded 50% of the rights to Superman, although Warner Bros. is still disputing the claim. Shuster’s heirs are hoping to receive the other 50%.
You cannot always wrap up your litigation before you pass away and most of us will never leave our heirs fighting over something as iconic as The Man of Steel. However, there are steps we can all take to leave our heirs with some form of certainty about what the estate will contain. Talk to an estate planning attorney about how you can help minimize the chance your heirs will have to litigate after you pass away.
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