Well, the civil lawsuit has been withdrawn, but the probate case filed in 2009 is still pending.
What is at stake?
The fortune of deceased industrialist Ralph Phillips.
His four daughters, with three pitted against the one he appointed as executor.
It seems the three are upset with how their sister is dividing the estate.
The Mansfield (OH) News-Journal recently reported on the probate case, initially brought in 2009, in an article titled "Court dispute over Ralph Phillips' estate withdrawn."
So, who was Ralph Phillips?
While all four of his daughters were named in his will, one daughter, Angela R. Phillips Deskins, was appointed executor.
Angela seemed a logical choice as she was active in his business operations.
Four appraisers with different specialties, including real estate and firearms, were tasked with conducting a valuation of estate assets.
They set the value of the non-business-related holdings at $4.74 million based on a 2010 inventory.
Included in these appraised assets were farm equipment, properties in Knox and Huron counties and South Dakota, numerous vehicles, bank deposits, and roughly $720,000 owed to Phillips on a note from Shelby Land Company (Shelby Country Club).
The three daughters filed a civil lawsuit in 2012, claiming Deskins interfered with the estate causing them to be deprived of trust inheritances they had expected. They alleged that their sister, the executor, failed to carry out their father's wishes to recapitalize his business assets prior to his death.
The three daughters sought an order from the probate court for equal distribution of the trust portion of Phillips' holdings. These assets included stock valued at more than $16 million in various companies, according to one court document.
The three sought $7 million in compensatory damages, plus punitive damages.
A little sisterly love there.
Deskins stated in court pleadings that she held officer positions within her father's companies and complied with all duties. In addition, she noted that, during his lifetime, her father rejected an estate planning proposal which her sisters claim would have affected their inheritances by recapitalizing the company so each daughter would receive a one-quarter share.
"Throughout his life, until his untimely death, Ralph Phillips remained very much in control of his companies and his plans for the disposition of his estate and those plans did not include the recapitalization of his companies," a defense brief said.
What is not clear from the article is whether Ralph Phillips ever had a "sit down" meeting with his four daughters.
In my experience, communication is key.
In fact, if you suspect there may be a family feud brewing, then it may be best to have an "heiring of the grievances" while you are alive.
That way family relationships are more likely to be preserved (and attorneys are less likely to be unnecessarily enriched) at your passing.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri), visit our estate planning website and be sure to subscribe to our complimentary estate planning e-newsletter while you are there.
Reference: Mansfield (OH) News-Journal (January 4, 2016) "Court dispute over Ralph Phillips' estate withdrawn"