After musician Tom Petty died in California in 2017, his wife and two daughters from a previous marriage ended up in litigation. The two daughters sued Petty’s wife for $5 million, claiming she superseded their rights in managing the estate.
However, on Dec. 18, a press release was issued from Petty’s representative saying that they had resolved their issues without going to litigation. According to the press release, they all regretted that their grief over his death had driven them to take actions that harmed one another.
In the joint statement, the three women affirmed their intention to work together to manage Petty’s estate and his legacy. They formed Tom Petty Legacy, LLC, and will each have the same standing in managing it. Petty’s sudden death in 2017 was eventually attributed to an accidental drug overdose. According to his wife, she left him alone for a moment after he fell asleep, and when she returned, he was unconscious.
This case demonstrates the importance of having a clear estate plan and talking to family members about that plan to ensure that wishes are understood and followed. Tensions may run particularly high in blended families like Petty’s, in which there are stepparents and children, but such tensions can arise in families when everyone is related by blood as well. A person who is creating an estate plan should take these tensions into account. For example, if there is a lot of sibling rivalry, the person should avoid creating a trust in which one sibling is a trustee and is in charge of distribution to the other siblings. If the person is using a will, the executor should be someone who is responsible and organized and who can manage family conflict if necessary. Communication about the estate plan beforehand can help prevent probate disputes and misunderstandings.