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The Presley inheritance dispute - what is going on?

View profile for Jordan Davies
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The Presley Inheritance Dispute: What Is Going On?

On 12th January Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis Presley, and his ex-wife Priscilla Presley, sadly died at the young age of 54. She died in hospital following a sudden cardiac arrest. Following Lisa Marie’s death, her mother Priscilla has issued a claim against the estate, to challenge the validity of her daughter’s Will.

The petition to the Superior Court in Los Angeles detailed that Priscilla was disputing an amendment that was made to the Will in 2016, with the said amendment removing Priscilla as the estate trustee.

The reasons provided include the misspelling of Priscilla’s name and Lisa Marie’s signature looking different to its usual appearance. Priscilla had been unaware of any such amendments to Lisa Marie’s Will and whilst it may not have been a legal requirement for Lisa Marie to notify her of any such changes, it is Priscilla’s position that she ordinarily would have been advised of any such amendments due to their close relationship.

Priscilla had been replaced as trustee, as well as Lisa Marie’s former business manager Barry Siegel, and replaced by two of Lisa Marie’s children, Riley Keogh and Benjamin Keogh. Benjamin died in 2020, leaving Riley as the sole trustee.

Her removal as trustee meant that Priscilla would no longer be overseeing her daughter’s assets within her estate. But what did the estate consist of?

When Elvis Presley died, he left Lisa Marie the Graceland estate – his iconic Memphis Tennesse mansion - by way of a trust fund, set up for her benefit. The trust dissolved when she was 25 years old, back in 1993, allowing the estate to pass to her absolutely. It has been reported however that the property had been placed back into a trust and following her death, has now passed to her children. Graceland has since been confirmed as Lisa Marie’s burial place.

Under Elvis Presley’s Will, he appointed his father, Vernon Presley, as his executor and trustee for his estate. His beneficiaries were his father, his grandmother Minnie Mae Presley and Lisa Marie.

Following the death of both Vernon and Minnie, it is reasonably presumed that Lisa Marie thereafter inherited further monies that had once belonged to her father.

In 2023, it was estimated that Lisa Marie’s net worth was in the region of $16 million. It can therefore be understood why Priscilla is so eager to protect the estate, on behalf of her daughter.

So with Priscilla raising issue with spelling mistakes and an unfamiliar signature, what grounds could Priscilla be pursuing for challenging the validity of the Will?

If the matter were based in the UK, we would reasonably presume that the challenge would be based on lacking knowledge and approval. Lisa Marie knew how to spell her own mothers name and so any such error could suggest that she did not have the opportunity to consider the document or was not provided opportunity to read over it before executing it. The inference being that if she was unaware of the spellings contained within the document, was she aware of the contents of the document at all. Lacking knowledge and approval will invalidate a Will if evidenced sufficiently.

There may also be concerns surrounding fraud and forgery, when considering the unfamiliar signature. Priscilla may seek to claim that the Will was amended and executed by someone other than Lisa Marie, therein explaining the odd signature. Evidencing such a challenge is notoriously difficult, but it may be possible for Priscilla to seek the advice of an expert such as a handwriting analyst. Such an expert would consider the signature against others and determine whether the signature found on the Will matches others.

Challenging the validity of a Will is always a difficult task, but with such a sizeable estate at the centre of the dispute, Priscilla is pursuing the claim without delay.

If you feel that you may need some advice on challenging the validity of a Will, please get in touch with our specialist contentious probate team on 0161 696 6178.and we will be happy to assist you.