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The Final Battle: Muhammad Ali’s Estate

07/01/2016

The Final Battle: Muhammad Ali’s Estate

With as many as nine children—including an adopted son from a recent marriage—and four marriages, Muhammad Ali led a big life. Now there are rumblings of potential estate battles from various websites, as reported in Forbes’ recent article “Battles Coming For Muhammad Ali Estate, But It Should Emerge Victorious.” There is also the issue of Ali’s suffering from Parkinson’s disease, which may have had both physical and mental impact and increased the likelihood that descendents will come after his millions.

Initial reports are that Ali’s fortune ranged from $50 million to $80 million, but that could just be the beginning. The value of his fortune could increase dramatically now that he’s gone—similar to what occurred with the estates of Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson.

Because of this, the possibility of estate fighting is significant. Reports say that Ali’s only known biological son—Muhammad Ali, Jr.—has been upset since his dad married Lonnie, his fourth wife, in 1986. Junior says that she cut him out of his father’s life and rarely let him visit. Ali Jr. was living in poverty and is now attempting to peddle a tell-all book with a plan on cashing in. He may also file a court action to try to get an inheritance. Also, Ali’s second wife, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, recently said that she expects there will be claims by illegitimate children to swamp Muhammad Ali’s estate.

Despite these reports, Ali is thought to have created a will—and perhaps other estate planning documents—with Lonnie in charge of his estate. She helped manage his financial and business affairs throughout their marriage.

The date that his estate planning documents were finalized will be critical: the nearer to his date of death and the weaker he was when he signed the will or other documents means the better chance of disgruntled heirs or others challenging their validity. In addition, it will be important to find out if Ali worked with an experienced and reputable estate planning attorney and the wording of his will and/or trust documents. Did he want everything to go to Lonnie, his children, or to charity?

Expect that the will and estate plan of Ali will be challenged and that there may be some unexpected twists and turns. However, given the level of planning that is said to have occurred over time, it is likely that Ali protected his heirs by naming the specific beneficiaries he wished to receive his wealth. That doesn’t mean that people will not try.

What will eventually unfold with Ali’s estate may be instructive when compared to Prince’s estate, providing a side-by-side comparison of two very different approaches to estate planning.

Reference: Forbes (June 16, 2016) “Battles Coming For Muhammad Ali Estate, But It Should Emerge Victorious”

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