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Claim against director's estate could lead to probate litigation

For many Americans, and perhaps some of our Michigan readers, the probate process can be a bit of a mystery. Of course most people know that they should at least have a will, even those people who don't have one. The problem, however, is that many people simply do not know what will actually take place when the time to use that will comes around. Although anyone planning out and executing an estate plan usually does so with the express goal of avoiding probate litigation, that is not always possible. Estate administration can be tricky at times, but as long as the estate planning documents are clear and the executor is competent, the whole process will generally go much more smoothly.

For instance, some of our readers may remember movie director Tony Scott, who died last year in an apparent suicide. Although Scott had some hit movies in recent years with "Unstoppable" and "Man of Fire," both starring Denzel Washington, most would say that his undeniable claim-to-fame was directing the iconic Tom Cruise movie "Top Gun." Scott's estate is still going through the probate process, and a recent report indicated that the agency that represented him had made a claim against the estate for commissions due.

According to the report, Scott's estate has a value of approximately $1.25 million. The claim against the estate is seeking payment of commissions due reportedly in the range of $1 million. The executor of the estate has denied the claim, but neither side currently seems inclined to fight the matter out in probate court. The report indicates that the parties may attempt to work out a settlement.

An estate plan is intended to ensure that assets and personal property are distributed in accordance with the planner's wishes. When unexpected claims come up, it is the duty of the estate executor to consider whether or not the claims are valid and should be paid - or denied. Nobody wants an estate to be tied up in probate litigation, but when this does happen it is important to have a competent executor who is getting the right information about how to proceed through the process.

Source: Deadline.com, "Tony Scott Estate Rejects CAA Commissions Claim," Dominic Patten, March 14, 2013

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