When done thoughtfully, good estate planning should help prevent family quarrels and protect private financial information from being brought into the public eye. Apparently, such was not the case for three-time Grammy Award winning R&B singer Barry White, who died in 2003. As TMZ reports, Barry’s son Darryl is suing his father’s estate and Barry’s widow, Glodean White, to demand an accounting of the will.
According to reports, Darryl had made an agreement with Glodean White, where he would give him his share of the estate, in exchange for not contesting the amount of money he would receive. Darryl claims his payments stopped coming in September 2015, and he is now nearly broke and homeless. Suspecting that Glodean is squandering his father’s estate, Darryl has asked the courts for a look at the will to see exactly what he is due. While lawsuits filed against an estate are not uncommon, we rarely hear stories where an heir agrees to allow a step parent to oversee the distribution of the estate, sight unseen.
An Unintended Legacy?
Even though we don’t know the structure of the late singer’s estate, it’s likely that White would not have wanted family quarrels to be exposed in public and tied to his legacy as an artist. Indeed, most estate plans seek to avoid exactly this kind of public dispute. However, when family members resort to court to resolve their differences, family finances do unfortunately become a matter of public record.
Where Did Things Go Wrong?
Regardless of outcome, what can we take away from the Darryl White court case? In our view, this situation could have been easily prevented by two important steps:
1. Involving the family in the estate planning process. Secretive planning frequently results in family disputes after you pass away. Conversely, communicating early and often during the process can ward off disputes later.
2. Making the will and estate plan accessible to heirs and other relevant parties. Darryl’s first and biggest mistake was to accept arrangements from his father’s widow without demanding to see the will first.
While we cannot control whether family members will some day quarrel over our estate, we can certainly reduce that risk through careful estate planning and open communication. Don’t jeopardize your legacy by leaving gaps in your estate plan.
To learn more, call our offices today, 501-221-7776.