Last month a lawsuit was filed against Jerry Jones to determine if Jones is the father of a child (Alexandra Davis) who was not born of Jones’ marriage to his wife.
Last year a will contest was filed against the Estate of Charley Pride by a child born outside of Pride’s marriage. The child (Tyler Pride) was only given $50,000.00 of Pride’s multi-million dollar estate. He is claiming he should be given a share of the estate equal to the children born of Pride’s marriage.
A couple of years ago, the “alleged” grandson of the notorious Helter Skelter mass murderer, Charles Manson, contested the handwritten will of Manson over his memorabilia. The handwritten will gave his assets (mostly memorabilia) to a memorabilia collector. The “grandson” wants to be entitled to the memorabilia.
In each of those cases, proof of parentage is key to the outcome of the case.
In the case against Jones, Alexandra Davis claims she just wants to confirm Jones is her father without monetary compensation. Jones has responded that this is an exhortation attempt without admitting or denying parentage. Although Jones has paid millions of dollars through a trust for child support to Davis, does anyone think that he is not the father? On the other hand, why is Alexandra Davis bringing this suit now if it isn’t for money or fame? Does anyone think the parentage lawsuit would result in Jones welcoming Davis with open arms? It would seem incongruous to think it would be for reasons other than fame or fortune (i.e., a future book, setting up a battle for inheritance rights like the Ohio case discussed below, etc.).
Similar to Jones, Charley Pride gave his illegitimate child, Tyler Pride, millions of dollars during Pride’s lifetime – but only $50,000 at death with the hope that Tyler would not seek anything more. However, after Pride died, Tyler has brought a will contest alleging that the will wasn’t effective due to undue influence by Pride’s wife as well as Pride’s lack of capacity. If Tyler Pride is successful, he could possibly get a share of the estate equal to Pride’s other children. See our article entitled “Pride and Prejudice? Did Charley Pride’s Will Treat His Secret Son Unfairly? Six Steps to Reduce Risk of a Disgruntled Beneficiary” by clicking here.
Parentage is also an issue in a probate battle over the memorabilia of the infamous Charles Manson. Michael Channels, a memorabilia collector and pen pal of the notorious Manson, claimed that a handwritten will of Manson left everything to him. Jason Freeman has contested the will as a forgery and has stated that he is the only heir claiming he is the grandson of Manson. Freeman alleged that Charles Manson, Jr. (the son of Charles Manson) was once married to his mother (they later got divorced) and that since Manson, Jr. (who changed his name to Charles Jay White) has died and there was an Ohio court order by default judgment that Charles Manson, Jr. (White) was Freeman’s father (Manson, Jr.’s name was not on Freeman’s birth certificate), that Freeman should be entitled to the estate as Manson’s only living descendant. A California appeals court ruled last year that Freeman did not have to take a DNA test to determine parentage since California law only permits such testing for children (not grandchildren). Although most heirs want to prove they are the heir by a DNA test (see case below), Freeman did not want this test. See our article Charles Manson’s “Grandson” Not Required To Take DNA Test In Helter Skelter Probate Battle” by clicking here.
A recent Ohio court of appeals decision, denied the motion for genetic testing by two alleged illegitimate daughters (“Sophia” and “Tiffany”) of the deceased (“Larry”) in connection with probate of Larry’s will. Larry’s will indicated he had four children. Sophia and Tiffany were not included. As a result, Sophia and Tiffany contested the will and claim Larry lacked testamentary capacity or was under undue influence when he signed his will. Sophia and Tiffany requested a DNA test (which could have resulted in Larry’s remains being exhumed). The executor denied that Sophia and Tiffany were Larry’s daughters. Sophia and Tiffany claimed they were illegitimate children of Larry and they should inherit if will was not valid (they claimed undue influence by Larry’s son) under the laws of Ohio when there is no valid will.
The Ohio court of appeals ruled against Sophia and Tiffany since (1) their constitutional right of equal protection for illegitimate children under the Fourteenth Amendment was never raised at the trial court level and that the Parentage Act in Ohio on intestate succession was constitutional; (2) a will contest can only be brought by a “person interested” in the will (unlike Tyler Pride’s case, neither Tiffany nor Sophia were direct or indirect beneficiaries of Larry’s Will) and since they weren’t named as beneficiaries the court concluded they were not “interested”; and (3) the suit to determine parentage was not brought within five years after the child reaches the age of eighteen (and Sophia and Tiffany were over 25).
Under Texas law, if Larry made no provision in his will for any child of his who is living when he signed the will (which would be the case for Sophia and Tiffany), a pretermitted child (such as Sophia and Tiffany) succeeds to the portion of the deceased’s separate and community property (in this case, Larry is not married) that other children named in the will would get (each child would get an equal share). However, if under Texas law, a pretermitted child does not inherit if the child was either mentioned in the will (Sophia and Tiffany were not), provided for in the will (Sophia and Tiffany were not) or not otherwise provided. Sophia and Tiffany were to get some of Larry’s retirement funds. As a result, Sophia and Tiffany would not be entitled to a portion of Larry’s will under Texas pretermitted child inheritance laws.
Similarly, Charley Pride did provide for his illegitimate child, Tyler. So, Tyler would not be successful under the Texas pretermitted child inheritance laws (so his claim is that the will was invalid due to lack of capacity of Charley or undue influence over him when he signed the will). The pretermitted child inheritance law would not be applicable to Charles Manson’s alleged grandson, Jason Freeman, since he is not a child of Charles Manson.
Although there is little doubt Jerry Jones’ estate planning attorneys have protected his estate from a pretermitted child inheritance claim by Alexandra Davis, there is some question since Mr. Jones had a representative of his establish the trust that paid Davis and that Jerry Jones simply deposited his funds into that trust. So, could Alexandra Davis try to claim that since the trust was not established by Jerry Jones that he has not provided for her (even though he indirectly did) to take advantage of the Texas pretermitted child inheritance laws after Jones’ death? If she establishes parentage now, would she be trying to put herself in a better position to make a claim against the billionaire’s estate (he is turning 80 later this year) after his death?
Jerry Jones, Charley Pride and Charles Manson (or their estate in the case of Pride and Manson) have parentage determination as one of the key issues in the lawsuits. Estate planners should consider this in reducing risk to their intended beneficiaries.
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