Lack of a Will Leads to Controversy in Estate of NFL Legend Gene Upshaw

New York estate planning is often given little thought by some local residents until a specific event brings attention to the issue. A retirement, death of a close friend or relative, and similar occurrences often act as a catalyst leading residents to consider plans for their own affairs. Unfortunately, for many residents that triggering event never occurs, and they end up waiting too long to properly prepare matters related to their estate. It is in those cases that controversy and disagreement often leads to fighting among surviving relatives.

That appears to be what happened with the estate of NFL football great and union leader Gene Upshaw. Earlier this month The Washington Post reported on the saga surrounding Mr. Upshaw’s death, lack of will, and controversy among his friends and family in the aftermath of his death. The 63-year old Upshaw was vacationing with his wife in 2008 when he unexpectedly fell ill. He was taken to a local hospital and died three days later.

Mr. Upshaw did not have a will or any other estate planning matters settled before his sudden illness. As a result, there was a chaotic, questionable attempt to have a will drafted and signed in the three days between his illness and ultimate death. According to reports the last-minute document appeared to leave all of the man’s assets to his wife, naming her as trustee and executor. However, many questions remained about Mr. Upshaw’s mental state at the time the will was drafted and whether or not he actually signed the document.

A few months after his death, Mr. Upshaw’s eldest son filed suit disputing the will. He claimed that his father was essentially unconscious in his final days and unable to execute the paperwork. His mother-in-law, however, asserted that he was conscious and capable of speaking. It was later revealed that Mr. Upshaw had not in fact signed the document but that his friend had done it on his behalf. Both sides entered into a prolonged dispute. The matter was set to go to trial earlier this month but was finally settled privately a few days before the start.

The controversy surrounding Mr. Upshaw’s unfortunate end stands as a clear reminder of the importance of proper planning for all area residents. There is simply no way to know when these tools will be necessary for you and your family. That uncertainty makes any time a good time for local residents to create a New York estate plan. The effort may involve creation of a will, trusts, or other legal arrangements. By taking the time to visit a New York estate planning lawyer you will help ensure that surviving family members are spared the often painful and conflict-ridden probate process.

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