Change of Heart for the Petty Family

Another day, another late famous person’s disputed will.

The singer-songwriter Tom Petty died in October 2017 moving onto A Higher Place, following an accidental overdose. A recent news story suggests all is not well in the Petty camp relating to the distribution of his assets.

Petty left behind two adult daughters, Adria Petty and Annakim Violette, and his wife Dana York. His daughters came from his first marriage and news reports hint relationships were not that cordial during the singer’s lifetime and have now worsened.

Tom Petty hadn’t fallen into the trap of not leaving a will, as often cases such as that of Prince and Bob Marley have proved that the fall-out can drag out for years. He set up a trust to distribute his assets after his death, seemingly giving that power to his wife with input from his two daughters. In theory, the trust should ensure the seamless distribution of an estate and can preserve privacy as it avoids the use of probate courts.

Probate courts

But the Petty family have found themselves in the probate court anyway. Petty’s widow has filed a petition asking the court to appoint a manager to supervise the decision-making on his estate. She alleges she tried to work with his daughters but their behaviour made it difficult to carry out the estate business. This relates to issues around the release of new solo tracks Petty made 25 years ago. York wanted them included in an anniversary release of Petty’s Wildflowers album, but his daughters disagreed.

Adria Petty has filed her own petition in court claiming her stepmother failed to create a limited liability company to hold various artistic properties as per her father’s estate plan, and she alleges this company would be divided equally between his widow and children. She also wishes to be part of decisions taken on posthumous releases and business ventures. Since Petty’s death, two tracks have been released.

Unique situation when administering estates

The legal website Above the Law says such a situation is not uncommon in blended families and multiple marriages, as they create unique situation when administering an estate. Parents of children from previous marriages often use estate-planning to ensure those children are provided for when they die, as well as their spouse. Without proper planning, another possibility is that the spouse inherits the estate and it is passed to their children when he or she dies, rather than the children of the deceased.

Above the Law says it seems as if Tom Petty sought to include his wife and daughters as well as he could, but they argued: “An estate plan is not the time to make everyone happy, appease emotions, or even apologize. When choosing fiduciaries, especially a trustee or executor, make certain the individual can make a sound decision and she can weather a storm as great as a step-parent/stepchild relationship.”

Two sides who are both saying I Won’t Back Down? Let’s hope It’ll All Work Out for the family…


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