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Lessons from the Lisa Marie Presley estate

Dear Clients and Friends,


Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of rock and roll legend Elvis Presley, died earlier this year from cardiac arrest. She was 54 years old. Lisa Marie was the sole beneficiary of the Presley estate. In 2005, Lisa Marie sold 85 percent of Elvis Presley Enterprises for about $97 million and transferred the remaining 15 percent to Promenade Trust.


Elvis’ ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, has long helped manage Elvis’ estate, so perhaps it’s not surprising that she and Barry Siegal, the family’s former business manager, were named as co-trustees of the trust. However, weeks after Lisa Marie’s death, Priscilla filed a petition challenging the validity of a 2016 document that removed Priscilla and Barry as co-trustees and replaced them with Lisa Marie’s children, Riley and Benjamin Keough (the latter of whom died in 2020).


Priscilla is not a beneficiary of the trust, but she is fighting to retain control of how the funds are managed. In court documents, Priscilla alleges she was not notified of the change in trustees, as required by the trust’s terms. She also alleges her name was spelled wrong, the document contains a signature that was “inconsistent” with her daughter’s usual signature, and the amendment was not witnessed or notarized.


Family disputes like this are always unfortunate, particularly as they come at a time when survivors are also processing loss and grief. Here are some lessons to learn from the situation, to help your own family avoid questions and conflict:


Follow the terms of the trust instrument. The Promenade Trust required that acting trustees receive notice if they were being replaced. If Pricilla wasn’t notified, that one simple failure could put trust documents at risk. That’s why it’s generally a good idea to get help from a qualified attorney who can review trust terms and ensure all stipulations are met.


Review your plan regularly. The 2016 amendment names Lisa Marie’s son, Benjamin Keough, as one of the co-trustees. Unfortunately, he died four years after the amendment was created. The lesson here is to review your estate planning documents every few years, or when major life events such as a birth, death, marriage or divorce occur.


Say no to family feuds and yes to peaceful settlements, because nothing ruins an estate like a bad family rivalry. And nothing ruins a family like a nasty estate fight. With clear communication and support from us or other qualified legal professionals, you can take proactive steps to prevent potential battles among your heirs.


Best,

Ron

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