Celebrity Estate Lessons - B.B. King

B.B. King with his guitar concept
There's no dispute that B.B. King was a master musician. And he actually didn't do too bad a job with his estate plan, either.
King had a Trust created for his children in 2007, which was supposed to take generous care of his surviving 11 children (each from a different mother) when he passed. However, this Trust was updated in 2014 to leave between $3,000 and $5,000 to each child. The rest of his estate was to go toward the family's future education expenses. LaVerne Toney, King's personal assistant was named as the Trustee.
Family members have estimated that the estate could be worth between $30 million and $40 million, but Toney's filing show only $5 million left in a few bank accounts. Considering the hardships of many black musicians of his time (his first recording contract was signed in 1949), the fact that he didn't write most of his songs, and his generous support of his children, the small amount may not be too surprising.
Needless to say, the discrepancy caused allegations of elder abuse to arise. The children claim that Toney siphoned off much of King's fortune. Claims even went so far as to assert that Toney had poisoned King, but police found nothing to support this claim.
Probably the biggest shocker came in a biography of King's which stated that due to an accident as a child, accompanied by a later illness, the musician was likely sterile and could not have fathered any children. Upon each child's claim of paternity over the years, King was given the opportunity to contest the claim, but never did. At one point, some of the children asked him to disown others. To quell the argument, King said he would take a DNA test alongside them all to figure everything out once and for all. None of the kids took him up on it.
So, the first thing to take from this story is to be up front with your family about your final wishes. Let them know what your end of life documents say.
In cases of complicated family relationships, such as having children from multiple partners, it's more important to make sure that you have something in place. Contact an attorney so you can be confident your estate will be distributed according to your wishes.