Lottery Winnings, Murder, & Estate Planning

January 15, 2013

The Daily Jeffersonian published a story recently on the bizarre details of a case involving a lottery winner's apparent murder and the subsequent estate battle. Like the plot of a Hollywood crime drama, the tale includes a mysterious death, a series of hidden family feuds, and considerable money on the line. While quite dramatic, it is a vivid example of the difference that common sense estate planning can make in the aftermath of a death.

Money & Murder
The case centers of the estate of Urooj Khan who immigrated from India in 1989 and established several successful businesses. In 2010 he hit a jackpot and won a state lottery; his actual take-home from the winnings were about $425,000. According to reports, he planned on using the windfall to pay off his mortgage, expand his business, and donate a sizeable sum to a local children's hospital.

Unfortunately, his long-term planning was for naught. A few days before he was set to collect his winnings, after a dinner with family, he became very ill. He collapsed that night and ultimately passed away. It was only later that the strange circumstances of his death became known.

According to published reports, officials at first assumed the death was due to natural causes. However, when a relative came forward with suspicions, investigators looked closer. A toxicology report was authorized and a lethal amount of cyanide was found in his system. He had been murdered.

No Estate Planning
As you might expect, the murder of a middle-aged man just after he won the lottery led to immediate speculation about who could have been involved. Authorities have yet to arrest anyone for the crime or name suspects; the man's body is set to be exhumed, indicating that authorities are still working to collect evidence.

Money is the likely motive in the murder, and speculation is rampant about who may have played a role. For one thing, Khan apparently did not conduct any estate planning before his untimely death. No trusts exist to pass on assets seamlessly, and there is no will to indicate who he wanted to have his assets.

As often happens in these cases, a court battle ensued. Intestacy laws in the state suggest that the man's wife and daughter (from a different relationship) would split the assets. However, Khan's siblings have voiced concerns about the inheritance and have suggested that their brother's wife might not properly protect Khan's daughter's share of the money. Khan's ex-wife has also come forward claiming that she did not even know that Khan or her daughter was still in the country, as she assumed they had moved back to India.

Considering that Khan's wife is set to inherit, many have questioned whether she played a role in his passing. For example, reports indicate that Khan's wife previously claimed that she, her husband, her daughter, and her own father ate the same meal the night before his passing. However, the meal was lamb curry, which the wife would not have eaten on account of her vegetarianism. In addition, her own father has come under suspicion, as he owes over $124,000 in federal tax liens.

The saga truly has the makings of who-done-it murder mystery. One can only hope that authorities are able to get to the bottom of the situation to ensure justice and fairness.