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B.B. King's Estate Dispute

BB King.jpg

Music lovers across the world were saddened on the news of jazz icon B.B. King's death yesterday at the age of 89. King left behind an extraordinary legacy: over seven decades the artist produced 40 studio albums, 16 live albums, and almost 140 singles. King's estate, as well reflected his success, with its worth valued at anywhere from 10 to $30 million. Yet now that estate is in dispute.

It's a sad fact that those closest to a loved can often end up in conflict over their legacy. King's personal life was marked by two marriages - both failed due to the pressures of constant touring - and 15 biological and adopted children, among whom 11 survive. Unfortunately for the King family, an estate dispute has arisen, and some of the musician's children are 'at war' with his manager.

King's manager, Laverne Toney, held power of attorney for him in the time before his passing, when he went to the hospital on April 30th and then entered hospice care. The day before, on April 29th, three of of King's children, Karen Williams, Rita Washington, and Patty King filed a case in Clark County Family Court, Las Vegas, alleging elder abuse against the ailing blues guitarist. They claimed that King was receiving improper care and said that they and several of his friends, including Willy Nelson, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, and Carlos Santana, had been prevented from visiting him. In addition, King's three daughters claim that over $1 million from their father's bank accounts disappeared, while upwards of $5 million was at stake.

In King's case, however, the Clark County judge presiding over the matter decided there were no signs of elder abuse and on May 7th dismissed the daughters' filing for a guardianship. The judge cited two prior investigations which had found no evidence of wrongdoing, as well as the testimony of King's physician, who was present at the hearing, to affirm Toney in her power of attorney. With tears and emotion, the daughters proclaimed the 'war' would continue.

Now that King has died, where will the dispute go from here? It's reported that the blues great did have a will and trust, which should clarify most of the issues in dispute. It would seem that in this instance, grounds for elder abuse are not present and King was mentally competent in his choice of his manager to hold power of attorney. We should note, however, that elder abuse is a widespread phenomenon, and that power of attorney and conservatorship are subject to occasional abuse. King's artistic legacy is incredible, but the estate fight that developed after his death is all too ordinary.

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