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The death of comedian and actor Richard Pryor end a decade earlier caused a bitterness feud come erupt in between Pryor’s widow and some that his kids from ahead relationships. That feud took the widow and children v probate court and also even approximately the Appeals court – and the discord proceeds to this day. What did Pryor perform right and also wrong when it comes to the estate arrangement he left behind? What legacy planning lessons, if any, deserve to we discover from his estate plan and the probate lawsuit that adhered to his death?

Setting the stage – Pryor’s Marriages, Children, and Death

Richard Pryor to be married seven times come five different women. The married 2 women twice. Among the women he married double was also his widow, Jennifer Lee-Pryor. Jennifer married Pryor for the second time in 2001, making Pryor’s last marriage to Jennifer his longest marriage, lasting till his death in 2005. Back Richard and also Jennifer did not have any type of children, he did dad seven children with six various women. The those children, at the very least three of lock — Richard, Jr., Elizabeth, and Rain – have been feuding through Jennifer because before Pryor’s death.

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The household Feud – Marriage, Conservatorship, and also the to trust that led to Litigation

Richard Pryor endured from multiple sclerosis which started to deteriorate ago in the 1990’s. As a result, he hired Jennifer to oversee his caregivers and also act together his personal manager. Consequently, Jennifer moved from new York come Los Angeles in 1994 to take treatment of him and manage his affairs, in exchange because that a salary and also rent. In 2000, however, his son Richard, Jr. Filed because that conservatorship the Pryor. The alleged his father had actually deteriorated to the point that he could no much longer make decisions for himself and complained the Jennifer restricted access, at times refusing to enable Richard, Jr., to see his father. Jennifer fought earlier that Pryor had actually picked her and an accountant to make his decisions together agents under strength of attorney documents, and additionally as co-trustees the Richard Pryor’s Trust. She competed that Pryor was well-cared for and a court-appointed conservator was not needed. The probate referee overseeing the situation ruled in Jennifer’s favor.

Shortly after that, Richard Pryor and also Jennifer married for the second time. In an unusual move, they used for a “confidential” marriage certificate. Unlike most marriage certificates, this one was not made a matter of windy record. Reportedly, Jennifer did no tell Pryor’s children of the marriage. Afterward, Pryor amended his trust, specify name Jennifer as the primary beneficiary and the human being with the ideal to control every one of his pundit property — including his name and image rights, and royalties native his comedy albums and also performances. These changes to the trust left Jennifer in complete control, both before and also after Pryor died. That passed far from a heart attack in 2005 at age 65. Estimates placed the full value that the Richard Pryor heritage at approximately $40 million at the time.

When Pryor’s eldest children found out around the marriage and the to trust changes, some of them filed suit versus Jennifer, v Elizabeth top the charge. She accused Jennifer that elder abuse, fraud, forgery, and taking benefit of Richard’s dilute mental and physical state. She filed the legitimate proceedings in 2006. Similar to the former court proceedings, Jennifer prevailed in probate court, in huge part because she was the widow.

Elizabeth climate appealed come the California Court of Appeals. She argued that the marriage was the product of fraud and should it is in annulled. She additionally invoked California’s statute prohibiting gifts and bequests come caregivers. The Court of Appeals ruled the Elizabeth walk not have standing to seek an annulment, due to the fact that under California law, together a legit proceeding might only go forward if one of the spouses had filed the case before death. Therefore, the marriage was upheld as valid. This ruling enabled Jennifer to use an exemption to the legislation prohibiting gifts to caregivers, if the caregiver to be a spouse. Because Jennifer was legally married to Pryor, any kind of gifts or bequests the made come her, v his to trust or otherwise, were protected. Elizabeth still could have winner the case if she can have persuaded the court that Pryor either lacked adequate mental volume to make the alters to his trust, or the the changes were brought around by undue influence from Jennifer. Additionally, she can have proven the the documents were forged. But it shows up the court uncovered Elizabeth didn’t have adequate evidence come prevail, and also Elizabeth did no appeal this element of the ruling.

The Pryor family feud illustrates a couple of necessary estate to plan concepts. First, it shows us the power a spouse has actually when it concerns questions about, or obstacles to, an heritage plan. It likewise reiterates how necessary it is to plan early. When the mystery marriage does raise part questions, also suspicions, the truth that Richard began deferring to Jennifer end a decade before his death and also married her several years prior to his fatality as well, swayed the court to discover in Jennifer’s favor, regardless of the secrecy that the marriage.

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