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Legal Disputes Can Arise Despite Estate Planning

Estate administration can sometimes involve dealing with outside companies and contractors as it relates to the estate’s assets. Most of the time, these business dealings go smoothly, but when problems do occur, courts may need to intervene. According to reports, the estate of late singer Whitney Houston has filed a complaint alleging that the company the estate hired to sell Houston’s house is denying the estate access to the contents inside.

Houston’s sister-in-law is the executor of the estate. She claims that she hired Diego Cevallos and CPMG Mendham LLC last December to sell Houston’s house. The executor claims that there was a provision in the contract that the sale was for the house only and did not include the “personalty.” According to the court papers, however, the defendants changed the locks on the residence and chained the property’s gates, making it impossible to remove the personal effects inside. These include paintings, furniture, a baby grand piano and a jukebox.

The complaint also alleges that several meetings were set up so that movers could get the personal items from the house in February, but that the defendants canceled the meetings. According to the executor, she tried to request two meetings to get the items in March, but was denied. The estate is asking for an injunction to ensure that the defendants do not sell, move or get rid of any of the items. It is also seeking damages for conversion.

This case involves high-value items and a celebrity’s estate, but these kinds of situations do occur in estate administration. Fully vetting any companies or contractors an estate is using to sell a house or dispose of property is one way to prevent these types of issues. It is also important to have someone familiar with estate planning involved who can give advice on legal matters and guide Massachusetts executors through filing the appropriate court documents if needed.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Whitney Houston’s Estate Sues for Her Stuff” Chris Fry, May. 07, 2014

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