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Detroit probate dispute over casino mogul's estate gets ugly

When litigation begins in a case, most of our Oakland County readers would expect their attorneys to be highly professional and competent in the matter for which they were hired. Everyone desires a zealous advocate in court, but sometimes "zealous" can be taken to the point of contempt.

That is what has played out in a Wayne County court recently during the ongoing probate litigation surrounding the death of casino mogul Don Barden, who died in Detroit in May 2011. The estate administration in his case has become quite a tangled web of relatives with varying accusations, and now the attorney for two of Barden's siblings has been ordered to pay sanctions and potentially be held in criminal contempt for his actions.

The attorney is in hot water because of some legal filings in which he accused the probate court of playing favorites among the attorneys in the case. It is claimed that he also improperly revealed details about Barden's estate. The attorney's request to invalidate the trust in which Barden's estate is being held was also rejected.

Anyone familiar with our previous posts knows that one of the main goals of a comprehensive estate plan is to avoid situations in which potential heirs have to resort to litigation to resolve who gets what. A comprehensive plan ensures that the planner's assets and personal property are distributed as the planner intends.

Barden made his attempt to plan out the distribution of his estate, but the varying beliefs among his family members have put that plan in jeopardy. Only time will tell if the estate plan is carried out in accordance with his wishes. In the meantime, it appears one attorney involved in the case will need to tone down his advocacy on behalf of his clients.

Source: Detroit Free Press, "Attorney threatened with contempt for revealing details of Barden estate case," David Ashenfelter, July 19, 2012

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