Trust dispute boils over in Tom Petty's estate

The death of rock legend Tom Petty two years ago has left several unresolved issues between Petty's widow and his two daughters from a prior relationship. The fighting between the daughters and their stepmother has spilled over in to litigation that is now pending before a California court.

There are a lot of issues in play. For instance, the stepmother accuses one of the daughters of making plans to use Mr. Petty's name and image in a way that she says her late husband would never approve. On the flip side, the daughters are accusing the widow of financial mismanagement.

At the core of this dispute, as is the case with many trust disputes and other probate litigation, is a question of who gets to make what decisions. For instance, the widow is claiming that while all three women were supposed to have input, ultimately, she is in charge of Mr. Petty's trust and should have final authority as to how to proceed. She is proposing that the trust be handled by an independent manager who handles trusts for a living.

Mr. Petty's daughters suggest that the widow has not been fulfilling her duties as a trustee and that the daughters should have more say in what is going on. For her part, the stepmother is now seeking an order officially removing the daughters from any decision-making capacity they may have.

No matter how careful one is in estate planning, there is always a chance that estate administration will involve litigation, particularly when a lot of wealth is at stake and family dynamics are already difficult. In such situations, a Bay Area resident's having the assistance of an experienced attorney can be invaluable.

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