J. Kelly Kennedy, Attorney/CPA, PLLC

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Attorney and CPA

Estate legal issues arise nearly 20 years after musician's death

Anyone in Polk County who is a fan of blues music has probably heard of Muddy Waters. The legendary musician, who passed away in 1983, had a profound influence on blues music. But Waters' work also spanned across other genres of music, as he performed with other tremendously popular musicians like Mick Jagger. Because of his popularity, which dates all the way back to the 1950s, Waters' music is still commercially distributed today.

When Waters passed away, he left his surviving daughter and wife as the beneficiaries of his estate. To this day, they collect monthly royalty payments for the commercial use of Waters' music. However, the two are now trying to get control of the copyrights of Waters' music.

Although his estate was closed in 1987, Waters' daughter and widow went to court in hopes of reopening the estate. They are challenging the ownership of the copyrights to Waters' music and hoping that a probate judge will re-open the estate so that they can ultimately get control of those copyrights. The two women argue that the administrator of Waters' estate, who recently passed away, failed to properly conduct necessary estate administration responsibilities. Accordingly, they seek to re-open the estate and get control of the estate's remaining assets. The management company that now handles the estate and its copyrights asserts that the two women are not legally entitled to reopen the estate.

Most estates in Lakeland do not come with the attention and revenue-generating potential that are involved with Waters' estate. Regardless, this case is a reminder of the importance of estate planning and administration. In addition to asset distribution and tax responsibilities, the administrator or executor of the estate may have to deal with a variety of legal issues.

Source: NBC, "Heirs of Chicago Blues Legend Muddy Waters Go to Court Over Copyright," April 16, 2015

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