World

The who's who of battles for wills, bodies and legacies

BB King with Grammys Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption BB King's family are challenging the blues legend's will

It's only been one week since the "King of Blues" BB King died, and already his estate is embroiled in a legal challenge lodged by his children against his long-time manager turned-executor, LaVerne Toney.

BBC News takes a look at some of the more dramatic feuds that have taken place over the wills and legacies of well-known figures throughout the decades.


Jacko, king of pop

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BB King, it seems, is not the only famous musician to face a potentially long and drawn-out battle over his earnings.

Since the death of Michael Jackson in June 2009, his family have been involved in legal and financial disputes.

After he left his siblings out of his will, some of them wrote and signed a letter claiming the will to be a fake and calling on executors of the estate to resign in 2012.

One of the brothers, Jermaine, later retracted his signature and called on his brothers to end the feud.

There was also a lot of to-ing and fro-ing over who got custody of Jackson's three children, Prince Michael, Paris and Blanket.

Michael Jackson's mother, Katherine, was the legally named guardian but at one point in August 2012 briefly lost her guardianship amid reports she had gone missing, possibly even kidnapped by other family members.

But, as it transpired, she was enjoying a 10-day break at a spa in Arizona, completely unaware of the media storm left behind in her path. Her guardianship was later reinstated.


Hotel magnate Leona Helmsley and her dog

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In one of the more unusual wills, US real estate mogul Leona Helmsley - who died in 2007 - famously decided to leave a huge chunk of her fortune ($12m to be exact) to her eight-year-old white Maltese dog, Trouble.

But it wasn't all plain sailing for Helmsley's beloved dog, who had to be flown by private jet to an undisclosed location in Florida after reportedly receiving death threats.

Dubbed the "Queen of Mean", Helmsley was convicted in 1992 of tax evasion and spent 21 months in prison. She famously denied saying "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes" - as quoted by a housekeeper at her trial.

Image copyright AP

Any money that remained after Trouble's death would go to the charitable foundations that inherited most of the hotel magnate's estate.

But in 2009 a judge decided to slash Trouble's inheritance by $10m, with the money going towards the Helmsley's two grandchildren who had previously been excluded from the will.

Two million dollars was deemed adequate to cover expenses for twice the dog's life expectancy. As it turned out, the multimillion dollar pooch died just four years later and her funds were diverted back to the Helmsley family trust to support charities.


Baseball giant Ted Williams

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Not all feuds have been about money, houses or estates. Case in point: baseball legend Ted Williams.

His children disagreed over what to do with his remains after he died at the age of 83 in 2002.

The legal dispute began when the Red Sox star's two youngest children decided to have their father cryogenically frozen - when a body is kept at very low temperatures in the hope it can be restored by future medical technology.

Hours after his death, Williams's son John-Henry flew the body to a facility in Arizona where he was charged $120,000 to freeze the body.

A biography by author Ben Bradlee JR in 2013 revealed further gory details of how Williams's head was separated from his body and stored in separate containers. This, he said, was based on accounts from people who were present at the facility when the body was brought in.

But his eldest daughter, Barbara Joyce Williams Ferrell, raised objections, citing a will her father had signed in 1996 stating he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes spread out at sea.

According to the New York Times, Mrs Williams Ferrell later decided to drop the case after spending $87,000 of her and her husband's retirement savings pursuing it.


Nelson Mandela

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Deep divisions and squabbling were prevalent in the Nelson Mandela household long before South Africa's former president died at the end of 2013.

While the anti-apartheid figure was fighting for his life in hospital, 16 of his relatives won a case against his grandson Mandla to get the bodies of three of his children exhumed and reburied.

Mandla later accused his relatives of being vengeful and seeking to control his grandfather's legacy.

When he died at the age of 95, Mandela left behind an estate valued at 46m rand ($4.13m; £2.53m), raising fears of further disputes to come.

So far, there has been no real sign of squabbling. However, his ex-wife Winnie - who was bequeathed nothing in the will - is demanding ownership of Mandela's ancestral home in Qunu.


Asia's richest woman, Nina Wang

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It was a case that transfixed Hong Kong and beyond. Billionaire widow Nina Wang, nicknamed "Little Sweetie", died in 2007 leaving behind an estimated $4bn (£2.6bn) estate.

Her lover, Feng Shui master Peter Chan, was quick to claim the inheritance of Asia's then-richest woman, only to be left empty-handed when a court ruled her estate would instead go to charity.

Chan was later given a 12-year jail term for forging Wang's will. Jurors heard many lurid and colourful stories about the couple throughout the trial, including how Chan first wooed Wang - who was renowned for wearing her hair in pigtails - with a head massage.

Wang's fortune had already been the subject of an intensive legal dispute after the mysterious kidnapping and disappearance of her husband, Teddy Wang, back in 1990.


L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt

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What started out as a dispute between the heiress to a cosmetics fortune and her family quickly descended into a full-blown row that escalated as far as the former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Liliane Bettencourt, now 92, is the richest woman in France and heiress to the L'Oreal cosmetics fortune. Her total net worth is $40.9bn, according to Forbes estimates.

In 2010, her daughter, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyersut, tried to have her declared mentally unsound amid concerns her mother had given celebrity photographer Francois-Marie Banier about 1bn euros of gifts over a 20-year period.

Mother and daughter later put aside their feud, but not before it led to further claims of tax evasion and illegal donations to Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 campaign for the presidency.

In a new case that began this year, 10 men have been accused of swindling millions of euros from Bettencourt, who is reported to be suffering from dementia.

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