Happy Winter Olympics!
February 8th, 2022
Contributor: Kate Marchewka
We thought we'd celebrate with a tale of caution from the sports world. Former Olympian Florence Griffith Joyner won three gold medals and one silver medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. She also set a world record during the Olympic trials for the 100 m race and two world records during the Games for the 200 m race. Flo Jo, sadly, only gets a bronze medal for her estate planning, in my opinion at least.
When she passed in 1998 at the age of 38, she reportedly had a Will in place. There was one small wrinkle, though. No one knows where she stored the Will.
Without any instructions in place for her final wishes, tensions rose between Joyner's mother (Florence Griffith) and her husband (Al Joyner). Al owned the house where Flo Jo's mother was living and had been living for some time. Her mother believed that she was entitled to stay there for the rest of her life, while Al wanted to evict her as part of a financial restructuring to provide for his and Flo Jo's daughter. In a recurring theme, her mother also alleged that Al had a part in her daughter's death. Flo Jo died from complications of a seizure, a medical problem she had dealt with in the past. Considering these findings from the autopsy report, it is difficult to see how Al could have had a hand in her death.
With these battles raging, the court appointed a third party to oversee the distribution of her estate. Unfortunately, I was unable to find out what the ultimate outcome was.
So the moral of today's story: tell people where your Wills are kept. It's a good idea to tell a few people, in case one of your confidants predeceases you, or you pass at the same time. If you don't have someone, store your Will somewhere obvious, like in a home safe. (Of course then it's also important to make the code or key to this safe accessible).
Storing your Will in a safe deposit box may seem like a good idea, but in order to access that box your heirs may need a court order. This also assumes, of course, that they are aware of its existence in the first place. We still don't recommend storing it in your couch cushions.
As a final fun fact: If you've ever wondered, Florence Griffith Joyner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee are related, but not by blood. Both 1988 gold medal Olympians are sisters-in-law. Al Joyner also won an Olympic gold medal, but this was at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.