Updated Saturday, July 26, 2014 as of 1:14 PM ET
Blogs - Trial and Heirs
Duke Heirs Battle Over Billion-Dollar Fortune
Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The real reason may be due to the twins’ mother, Daisha.  When she and Walker, Jr., divorced in 2000, they embarked on a ten-year war for custody, visitation, and everything else having to do with the twins.  Walker, Jr. won custody of the children and appeared to do everything in his power to prevent Daisha from visiting with them.  Their epic court battles reached the Wyoming Supreme Court twice.  The court process revealed how the twins needed extensive therapy and there were significant concerns with Daisha’s judgment and commitment to a relationship her children.

The post-divorce fight ended with Walker, Jr.’s death in 2010.  His widow (and fifth wife) then picked up the custody battle, trying to prove that Daisha was too unfit to have custody of her children.  Reports of that court case state that Daisha was a former topless dancer with psychological problems including paranoia and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Nonetheless, in August of 2010, the children were returned to Daisha’s custody, and immediately began intensive counseling to help them rekindle their relationship with their mother, from whom they had been separated for long periods of time.  During the sessions, the children reported being physically abused and neglected while living with Walker, Jr. and his fifth wife.  Those allegations have been contested by the widow, who says Daisha planted those thoughts in the twins’ heads.

While the children are no longer subject to custody battles (at least, not at the moment), they are obviously still paying the price for all the fighting.  JPMorgan clearly does not want to release more money to Daisha than it has to, even when its caution results in the twins being suspended.

It’s sad that the children have never known a time when they were free of court battles. But it may not be a surprise.  The Duke family fortune has been subject to legal struggles like these ever since James Buchanan Duke died in 1925.   His estate, as well as the estate of Doris Duke, was marred by fighting over control of the large family fortune.  We detail the scandals behind the Doris Duke estate in our book, Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!.

Fighting over control of trusts and estates is not limited to billion-dollar fortunes.  That’s why the choice of whom is to serve as executor or trustee is always a critical component of proper estate planning.  When the wrong person is chosen, trust funds can be depleted in a hurry, to the detriment of all the heirs.

You can do a great service for your clients by encouraging them to carefully consider the best people to serve as trustees and executors.

By Danielle and Andrew Mayoras, co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, husband-and-wife legacy expert attorneys, and hosts of the national television special, Trial & Heirs:  Protect Your Family Fortune! For the latest celebrity and high-profile cases, with tips to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your clients, click here to subscribe to The Trial & Heirs Update.  You can “like” them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. Google+

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