With over five million Americans living with the disease and in honor of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in November, here are some celebrity estates impacted by Alzheimer’s disease that led to long-drawn court battles:
Rosa Parks, the well known civil rights icon passed away in 2005 at age 92, after suffering from the disease. Her death saw legal battles over her estate that continues 14 years later. Rosa Parks’s estate and assets were willed to a charitable organization she founded. But her nephews and nieces challenged her will and trust, and it’s validity on grounds of mental soundness and accusations of undue influence securing 20% share of her assets. Ongoing fights are said to be over leaked secrets, broken deals, allegations of bribery and corruption, claimed mismanagement of funds, assets and her estate and a lengthy battle over Rosa’s missing coat which the activist wore when she was arrested in 1955 at the Alabama bus stop. It’s tragic that her estate and legacy was tarnished in ways that were below this this iconic lady, who exemplified self-sacrifice, grace, and dignity, for the greater good.
Hollywood producer and industry biggie Aaron Spelling died in 2006, leaving behind a fortune as large as $500 million. Despite mental struggles later in his life, Aaron changed the last estate plan two months prior to his death, and gave only $800,000 each to daughter, actress Tori, and son, Randy. Tori’s financial struggles were documented in the years that followed. Though she felt that the inheritance reduction was improper, she never challenged the estate plan in court.
Legendary blues singer Etta James died in 2012, at 73 years of age after struggling with Alzheimer’s disease over several years. Her illness started an ugly legal battle between Donto James, her son from a prior relationship and her husband of over 4 decades, Artis Mills. It was over her right to make medical and financial decisions, including control of her $1 million account. Her husband alleged that the Etta’s power of attorney appointing her son, was invalid as she was not mentally competent when she signed the document. He then sued for the control of funds to pay the bills for Etta’s care. After multiple court hearings, Etta’s leukemia was diagnosed to be fatal, and that led everyone to make a settlement. Artis was granted conservatorship, controlling around $350,000 to finance Etta’s medical care in her last few months.
In 2011, the renowned country singer publicly acknowledged suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, while on his final “Goodbye Tour.” He died, aged 81 in 2017, leaving behind his widow, Kimberly and eight children from four marriages. Kimberly spearheaded a critically acclaimed documentary about his struggle with Alzheimer’s and revealed details of her husband’s illness – the memory loss, how he became paranoid and even violent. Glenn Campbell’s estate in 2007 had cut out three of his adult children, who challenged their disinheritance after his death but in 2018, the case was dropped without receiving any settlement. Campbell’s final will, prepared a few years prior to his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, was important in the lawsuit outcome. Glenn’s case shows how crucial proper estate planning really is!
Wills and trusts that are created or changed after Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or similar conditions are diagnosed, are invariably challenged in court, often successfully.