When money gets ugly: Top 10 will inheritance rows

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There's nothing like a tricky inheritance situation to spark a family feud. Someone gets more or less, or nothing at all – and all kinds of rows and legal action can ensue.

If you ever needed incentive to write a formal will, these top 10 inheritance rows from The Telegraph should do it.


At an already emotional time, the issue of inheritance can push already fraught relationships over the edge. With second marriages, illegitimate children and estranged families added to the mix, it can get messy and complicated even with small sums, so with big money cases there's even more scope for family fall-outs. Here we share the worst US inheritance feuds as drawn up by the Telegraph.

1. Made famous for his Millenium trilogy, Swedish author Stieg Larsson's will bequeathed all his assets to the Communist Workers League. However as the will remained unwitnessed, all his assets reverted to his estranged father and brother leaving his long-time partner Eva Gabrielsson with nothing. She is reportedly refusing to handover his final unpublished manuscript, which would be the fourth installment in the best-selling saga.

2. Christian Pascaud, popularly known as the "bastard of St. Emilion" spent 11 years in court contesting his right to be recognized as William Arraud's son and as heir to a £2m part of the family estate, before securing victory earlier this week.

3. Pop prince Michael Jackson's will gives 40% of his wealth to his mother, 40% to his children and the remainder to charity. Jackson's father Joe, with whom is relationship was reportedly rocky at times, was left nothing and is arguing for a monthly income from the estate

4. Actor and model Anna Nicole Smith did not update her will after the birth of her daughter, resulting in a long legal dispute as to the paternity of the child, since several men came forward claiming to be the father. At the time of her death Smith had also been fighting for a share of her late husband's, J. Howard Marshall, estate.

5. Soul singer James Brown's will does not include his widow or son but does include his six other children. It is also claimed that his last wife, Tomi Rae Hynie, was not legally married to Brown as their marriage took place while she was in a previous marriage and so was void.

6. Steve McNair, the American football quarterback, who was gunned down by his girlfriend, left no directions on how to distribute his assets. His estate reverted to his wife Mechelle and their two sons. But McNair also had two illegitimate sons yet neither were listed by Mechelle as heirs.

7. John Du Pont, heir to the US based DuPont Co. and the man who murdered Olympic wrestler David L. Schultz, was at the time of his death periodically under the impression that he was the Dalai Lama and Jesus Christ. His will, which gave 80% of his estate to Olympic wrestler Jordanov Dimitrov, is being contested by his niece and nephew.

8. Jimi Hendrix also died without leaving a will and his estate was largely managed by a Californian lawyer when his father, Al, sued for rights over his music. After Al's death control over the estate went to his adopted daughter Janie, who was then sued by Jimi's half-brother Leon, who had been left out of Al's will.

9. Martin Luther King Jr.'s son Dexter King is being sued by his other two children for refusing to disclose the estate's financial records and documentation to his siblings.

10. Author Michael Crichton died with a pregnant wife, four exes and a 20-year-old daughter, which prompted several Legal disputes.

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