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Formal agreement with ex-wife trumps late-businessman's second will

A will is often used to ensure that certain assets, personal belongings and property pass to intend loved ones. In most cases, an individual is allowed to amend his or her will to account for changes in familial and personal relationships. In some cases, however, other legal matters may interfere with an individual's ability to amend a will or trust.

It's been roughly five years since Leroy Hill, the founder and owner of The Leroy Hill Coffee Co., passed away. Since that time, Hill's second wife Debbie and three of Hill's children from his first marriage have been embroiled in a bitter will contest.

Upon divorcing his first wife, Hill agreed leave his children the Leroy Hill Coffee Co. and his sprawling estate. One of Hill's children retained a copy of the 1983 agreement detailing this plan. 

Subsequent to divorcing his first wife, Hill married an employee with whom he'd been having an affair. Hill then drafted a new will in which he left his company and estate to his second wife Debbie Hill. 

Upon Hill's death in 2009, three of Hill's children filed a lawsuit against Debbie Hill asserting the agreement made between their parents in 1983 explicitly stated that they were to inherit their late-father's company and estate. However, the copy of this agreement was mysteriously missing. In a lawsuit, Hill's children contended that either their late father or his second wife likely destroyed the document.

Debbie Hill refuted claims that the agreement ever existed and vehemently insisted that, pursuant to her late-husband's will, she should inherit Hill's company and estate. Last year, a judge ruled in favor of Hill's three children regarding the existence and legitimacy of the agreement and a jury awarded the plaintiffs "$7.44 million in damages."

A judge later ruled that ownership of the company and estate should revert to the plaintiffs. However, upon appeal of the lower court's decision, Debbie Hill maintained control over and ownership of the coffee company and sprawling estate. 

Just last week, the state's Supreme Court rejected Debbie Hill's appeal. Hill's children are now slated to take over ownership and control of their late father's company as well as his estate. 

Source: AL.com, "Supreme Court affirms ruling in family feud, clears way for children's inheritance of coffee empire," Brendan Kirby, Oct. 17, 2014

AL.com, "Leroy Hill trial: jury awards $7.44 mil in damages to Hill children (updated)," Michael Dumas, Oct. 24, 2013

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