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Mandela's heirs fighting over trusts, estate

Millions of people around the world mourned the recent death of anti-Apartheid hero Nelson Mandela. Mandela's legacy of standing up to oppression, yet forgiving his enemies, and working to bring South Africans together will hopefully remain strong through the years. Some of the leader's relatives, though, are proving that families all over the world can act similarly when money is at stake.

There apparently has been familial in-fighting for years. Mandela's oldest grandson was sued by other members of the family when he moved the graves of several of the leader's children from the ancestral village where they had been laid to rest. The grandson's idea was reportedly to create a Mandela family grave sight that could become a tourist attraction after the family patriarch had died. Unfortunately for him, Mandela's will - which is hand-written - requests that he be buried in the ancestral village.

Another lawsuit was filed in the U.S. by family members looking to get rid of those who control a trust fund set up to benefit Mandela's descendents. Mandela himself was reportedly angered by the suit, and it was not pursued further at the time. However, there are multiple trusts and charitable foundations, and some people believe there will be fights for control of these between heirs of the leader's first and second wives. Further, many relatives have attempted to cash in on the Mandela name in businesses from wine-making to apparel. Now that Mandela has died, there may be more suits that contest the man's state of mind when signing trust documents, or claiming that he was under "undue influence."

Stories like the one above illustrate that, in Florida and elsewhere, families sometimes disagree about how to handle a deceased loved one's estate. For those planning for the future, the best way to ensure that one's wishes are followed is to have a properly created and administered estate plan. It is important that one be very clear about what one wants to do with one's assets, and to secure proper advice for how to make those wishes legally effective.

Heirs should remember that even good estate plans can be contested. They may wish to make certain that if someone does contest some part of the estate, be it a will or a trust, that their legal rights, and the wishes of the deceased are protected.

Source: trialsandheirs.com, "Will Nelson Mandela's Heirs Tarnish His Legacy Through Greed And Fighting?," Dec. 13, 2013

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