Riley B. King, also known as famed blues musician B.B. King, passed away on May 14 and left behind a contentious estate battle between his children and manager. One of his daughters, Patty King, claimed in an interview that her father did well by his children and is now leading the charge against her father’s business manager, LaVerne Toney, of 39 years. Five of his eleven surviving children have all made claims of serious wrongdoing against the manager.
Accusations against the Manager
Patty King and her half-sister, Karen Williams, are leading the case against Ms. Toney. Some claims include not allowing the children to see Mr. King, providing improper medical care, and possibly even poisoning the famous musician in his final days. Because of the claims of possible homicide, the coroner conducted an autopsy and is awaiting toxicology results before rendering a final opinion. However, these types of tests could take weeks to return a result.
Furthermore, the children of B.B. King claim that Ms. Toney looted their father’s bank accounts for more than one million dollars and misled the children about Mr. King’s finances. Ms. King and Ms. Williams believe that the total estate should be between five and ten million dollars; however, in a prior attempt to gain guardianship over the estate the daughters claimed that their father had tens of millions of dollars in assets.
Response to the Allegations
Ms. Toney claims that these allegations are false, without merit, and defamatory. She was named as Mr. King’s executor for his estate based upon his last will. However, his children have filed a formal objection and challenge her position as executor. Ms. Toney’s attorney has gone on the record claiming that the musician’s children are simply after more money and that the estate is not worth nearly what the daughters believe it to be.
Contentious Estate Battles
This is not the first, nor will it be the last, contentious estate battle over the assets of someone of fame. Some of the most recent and notorious estate battles include fights over the assets of Michael Jackson, Robin Williams, Ernie Banks, Casey Kasem, Marlon Brando, and Ray Charles. All of these battles were finished only after long and costly court cases that threw details of their estate into the public eye and brought out the worst in family members. However, the battle over B.B. King’s estate is fairly unique in the daughters’ claims of murder by their father’s business manager.
The battle over B.B. King’s estate, and others, provide valuable lessons regarding the importance of avoiding contentious fights about an estate. Estate battles are common even among the common people, and fame is not a requisite for an ugly fight between heirs. One of the easiest ways to avoid contentious estate battles is to have a conversation with your heirs before you pass away explaining your estate planning decisions. Another option is to leave a letter or video explaining your choices. Finally, putting serious consideration into naming an executor to the estate can alleviate a lot of problems between heirs after you are gone.