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Heirs fight over assets and legacy of late disabled singer

When a loved one passes, surviving relatives may be left with much to sort out. Existing debts, the division of property and funeral preparations and expenses are just some of the matters with which surviving family members are left to deal. In cases where an individual failed to take steps to ensure for a comprehensive estate plan, these matters are often complicated and can result in disputes amongst surviving heirs.

A trial is currently underway in a dispute over the assets and legacy of late R&B singer Teddy Pendergrass. Pendergrass is probably best known for singing the song, "If you don't know me by now," the title of which seems to perfectly encapsulate the issues that may have lead to the current legal estate dispute.

At the time of his death in 2010, Pendergrass was married to his second wife whom he'd wed in 2008. Pendergrass had grown children from a first marriage, one of which is claiming to have been named as executor and beneficiary to Pendergrass's estate as declared in a 2009 will.
Pendergrass's second wife disputes the validity of that 2009 will, and has chosen to contest the will. Evidence in her case relates to the fact that, at the time of his death, Pendergrass was a quadriplegic after suffering serious injuries in a 1982 car accident.

Given the late singer's physical disability, his second wife contends he wasn't able to physically sign a legal document such as a will. What's more, Pendergrass required 24-7 care and none of his care providers recall transporting the late singer on the day the will was allegedly signed. In this estate dispute, Pendergrass's legacy, including licensing rights for future use of his songs and name, are a major, and potentially lucrative, factor.

This case proves the importance of establishing a comprehensive estate plan, to include a will and appropriate trusts, and informing those impacted of its existence and directives. In cases where a loved one's physical or mental capacity is an issue, legal action may be appropriate to protect assets and preserve a loved one's legacy.

Source: The Herald Record, "Protecting your Future: Fight over R&B singer's assets a warning on wills," Bonnie Kraham, Dec. 12, 2013

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