The MLO Minute: “What Do Elvis Presley and Phyllis Schlafly Have in Common?” —
By Dennis McAndrews, Esq., Founder and Managing Partner Emeritus —
Of course, Elvis Presley – a.k.a. “The King” – is a music legend who has been dead since 1977. Phyllis Schlafly was a well-known conservative commentator and staunch opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment, and she died shortly after endorsing Donald Trump for president in 2016. Their lives and lifestyles had virtually nothing in common. But beyond the fact that they were both wealthy and have both been dead for some time, each of their estates continue to be the subject of litigation, perhaps because of inadequate planning and/or litigious family members. Although Elvis has been dead since 1978 (discounting conspiracy theories that he is still alive!) his ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, recently brought suit with respect to who will control the “Living Trust” of her daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, the only child and sole heir of Elvis, who died at age 54 on January 12, 2023. Lisa Marie’s trust was/is significantly funded through his estate. As the only child of Elvis, she controlled her father’s iconic Graceland property as well as a 15 percent stake in his estate. At issue is a document purportedly signed by Lisa Marie in 2016 removing Priscilla as a trustee of the trust (Priscilla asserts she was never informed) and directing all funds on her death to Lisa Marie’s own three children, but which allegedly had an atypical signature of Lisa Marie, a lack of a witness, and a lack of a notarization.
In the Phyllis Schlafly litigation, the children of the conservative commentator have now been at war with one another for nearly 7 years with respect to an alteration of her will late in life and a claim of undue influence. This contentious battle has become extremely litigious and divisive, with some 52 state appellate and federal court opinions issued already during the administration of the estate. The battle recently became so overwhelming that a judge appointed a special master and ordered the parties to pay $50,000 to the special master just to decide discovery disputes regarding the pretrial exchange of documents.
The moral of the story is clear. Proper estate planning requires thought, care, insight, judgment, and skillful drafting. In our Estates and Trusts Department, we seek to combine all of these attributes in every estate plan that we develop, and in every estate that we administer. We keep a watchful eye out for legal developments which affect our clients, and provide numerous programs for fellow attorneys and the public to inform colleagues and interested parties of proper estate planning and estate administration procedures.
We look forward to working with you if you should require our capable and experienced estate planning or estate administration services.