The Passing of an American Legend and the Fight for the Estate He Left Behind

Celebrity Estate Planning, Estate, Estate Planning, B.B. King, Family

Born and raised in the heart of Mississippi on a cotton plantation in the 1920s, B.B. King is more than a legendary musician – he is a legendary American. Over the decades, his emotional performances on his guitar “Lucille” have inspired millions to play the blues, including Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton.

More than anything in the world, King loved to play the blues on his “Lucille,” and you can see it on his face during his performances. In fact, he played and toured well into his late 80s, up until his health prevented him from performing at the level he felt his fans deserved. On May 14, 2015, B.B. King passed away in his Las Vegas home as a result of a series of mini-strokes stemming from his type-2 diabetes.

Unlike some musicians and celebrities, King made wise financial decisions during his lifetime. While he didn’t die a billionaire, he did have a $5 million dollar nest egg saved up, in addition to various forms of revenue through royalty and licensing deals.

Days after the blues legend’s death, his daughters began fighting over King’s estate with the executor named in the will, LaVerne Toney. King’s daughters have alleged the following:

  • Family members were purposely kept away from King in his final days.
  • King was mistreated medically.
  • His funds were siphoned off shortly before his death on May 14, 2015.

Two of King’s daughters, Patty King and Karen Williams, have been especially outspoken and claim that LaVerne Toney and B.B. King’s personal assistant, Myron Johnson, were poisoning the blues legend to hasten his death.

Toney and Johnson have denied the allegations, yet an autopsy must be performed to rule out foul play. The two sisters have also enlisted the help of attorney Benjamin Crump, who previously was involved in the Trayvon Martin case.

When planning your estate, it is important that you only name an individual whom you trust with your life to be your power of attorney (POA). The music and entertainment business is rife with stories about artists and performers who give POA to their business managers only to watch their hard-earned fortunes get pilfered away.

While this does not appear to be the case with B.B. King and LaVerne Toney (in fact to the contrary as they appeared to have a great working relationship), by naming a non-family member as the executor of his will, B.B. King ensured hostility from his 11 daughters.

Questions about estate planning? For experienced estate planning guidance in Union or Hunterdon Counties of New Jersey, contact Alec Borenstein, Esq., at or call 908-236-6457 today.

Why Using an Attorney to Prepare Your Will Makes Sense

You like to do things yourself and feel that you can save some money by preparing your own Will. However, before you head for the computer to download an online form or two, consider why using an experienced attorney to prepare your Will saves you money and heartache.

Here are some important reasons to seek knowledgeable legal guidance:

  • Your life is unique: Your primary asset may be your home and some retirement savings. Maybe you have a diverse investment portfolio or children. The small details of life make a very big difference when preparing your Will. Two people with similar backgrounds may have quite different wishes with regard to their property and how it is transferred. Relying on information gleaned from the Internet or from boilerplate documents puts your unique needs and wishes at risk.
  • Know your options: Without experienced legal advice, the spectrum of legal and financial options open to you may not be known. Understanding the impact of tax and inheritance laws could alter how you gift your property and how your Will is written.
  • Complications could arise: A well-crafted Will eliminates questions among heirs and business associates about your intent. It is easy to create a lifetime of ill-will among siblings if a Will is poorly prepared.
  • Business and wealth: If you are a business owner, you know the importance of sound legal help. Substantial wealth calls for careful estate planning, beginning with your Will. An estate planning professional can guide you through the process of preserving and distributing your business and personal resources as you wish.
  • Getting it right: To be effective, your Will should be free of mistakes or problem language. Individuals and couples who prepare their own Wills can make egregious financial missteps. Many times these Wills, and successive personally-prepared amendments, are found invalid. While an online form may provide words, it is not language specific to your circumstances.

The U.S. Government notes that a Will is a practical first step to ensure your property is handled appropriately after your death. Using legal counsel to prepare your Will is a small investment in securing peace of mind for you and your family. When you have questions about preparing a Will in New Jersey, speak with an experienced estate planning attorney.

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