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Deceased rocker’s trust is promoting rather than dampening conflict

Aretha Franklin. Prince. James Brown.

And now Tom Petty.

That’s quite a pantheon of legendary musical artists, isn’t it? Collectively, those now deceased pop luminaries created and performed songs that generated soaring revenues for their recording companies and outsized personal lifestyles for themselves. And their enduring popularity virtually guarantees the continuing high-volume sales of their musical catalogs in the wake of their passing.

Such is commonly the outcome of vast popularity in the entertainment realm.

So too is this often-realized result: estate-tied acrimony following their deaths, even when they anticipated the potential for trouble and took steps during life to reduce its down-the-road occurrence.

We have addressed the financial spats and protracted litigation surrounding the estates of Brown, Prince and Franklin in past posts (our October 23 entry from last year is a representative offering).

Now we spotlight Petty, as many national media stories are presently doing. The Heartbreakers’ leader died at 66 in 2017, having established a trust sometime before that. That legal instrument mandates the co-management of his vast library of existing songs and yet-to-be-released works. It specifically directs his second wife/widow and two daughters from an earlier marriage to control his enduring musical business with “equal participation” among them.

That wording now commands a front-and-center spotlight in litigation filed recently by the widow against one of the daughters. Reportedly, Dana York Petty interprets the phrase as implying a 50/50 allocation of power and mutual consent on all material matters, pursuant to the trust being administered by professional managers.

Daughter Adria Petty thinks otherwise, and followed up her stepmother’s lawsuit with a legal filing of her own. She argues that “equal participation” gives the daughters an automatic two-thirds majority vote over all trust matters. She is now petitioning for full control of the catalog.

The matter is notably contentious and raises great uncertainty presently concerning further musical releases. We will keep readers apprised of any key developments that emerge in the litigation.

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