The name of music impresario and promoter Bill Graham may not ring a bell to some Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, residents but they can surely learn from his estate plan. After a failed first attempt, Graham's estate is back in court after his two sons contested a court decision dismissing the fraud case they filed against the executor of their father's estate.
In 2011, a federal court ruled that the fraud allegation was really an honest transaction that had been disclosed to Graham's sons' attorney in 1997. Additionally, the judge ruled that the four-year legal period had passed when they went to court. However, an appellate court overturned the decision, giving the heirs legal approval to continue with the estate administration case.
The appeals court stated that the sons were never informed about the sale of music memorabilia to the company that acquired Bill Graham Enterprises. This means that the sons had the right to refuse the sale and acquire those properties. Additionally, although the document that the sons' attorney received contained information about the sale of property rights, it did not outline the sale of all of Graham's copyrights and trademarks.
The lawsuit contends that the executor restricted the information to Graham's sons and transferred the memorabilia for a profitable sale to a company that purchased Bill Graham Enterprises. The memorabilia included copyrights to posters of famous singers as well as trademark to the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco.
Choosing the executor of an estate should always be done carefully. Although many people consider estate administration an honor, executing the wishes of the deceased can be challenging. Other than the basic tasks, such as gathering and managing assets, executors must perform their fiduciary duties satisfactorily or else face legal issues.
Source: SF Gate, "Sons of Bill Graham get estate lawsuit reinstated," Bob Egelko, Dec. 27, 2013