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There’s no doubt the late, great rock star Tom Petty thought he had his legacy all wrapped up in a neat package before he passed away. Like too many before him, he was wrong. 

Unlike Aretha Franklin, Prince, and so many other rock-and-roll legends who died with ambiguous wills or no estate planning at all, Petty took measures to try to ensure a fair inheritance for his three surviving heirs: his two daughters from his first marriage, Adria and Annakim, and his widow, Dana York Petty. He set up a trust called Petty Unlimited, LLC, to equally divide his major assets among the three women. He so thoughtfully considered fair distribution that the terms of the trust require “equal participation” in decisions concerning the handling of the estate. 

But Petty didn’t anticipate two significant issues that are now “runnin’ down” his dream for a peaceful transition. 

  1. Dana set up a separate company called Tom Petty Legacy, LLC, to allegedly siphon off assets before they made it to the shared trust. Adria and Annakim now accuse Dana of using the separate company “as a vehicle through which to deprive” them of their rightful assets.
  2. The wording of “equal participation” isn’t helping the sisters in this case. By joining together in complaining about Dana’s actions, Dana has accused them of attempting to “rule by majority,” which, she says, goes against Petty’s wishes. Her interpretation is that she is the sole trustee with authority to manage his estate and, while she must allow the sisters each a vote in the spirit of “equal participation,” she has the final say in how the assets are handled. 

Even the most solid estate plans could show cracks beneath the surface. Have an outside expert not involved in the drafting of your estate planning documents evaluate your wording and question any ambiguities or possible loopholes that might otherwise emerge once you’re no longer able to explain them. See this article on WealthManagement.com for more information about the case, and feel free to contact us with questions.

Photo by musicisentropy [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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