After nearly a year in litigation, former Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson's wife filed papers relinquishing all money and personal property left to her in her husband's estate. Just who is Ken Thompson, and what went wrong after his death last October?
Attorney Ken Thompson was Brooklyn's first African American District Attorney. Last October he passed away from cancer at the age of 50. He left behind a wife, two children, and a grieving mother. He was a renowned attorney just starting out in his political career when he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that took less than 6 months to kill him.
But the tragedy does not end there.
Just prior to Mr. Thompson's passing, he drafted Estate Planning documents that were allegedly in direct conflict with previous estate planning documents, drafted in 2008. The new documents cut out his mother and siblings and left everything to his wife.
--Lesson number one from your trust attorney: Do NOT encourage death bed estate planning that unduly benefits one person over another - especially when that estate planning directly contradicts a prior will or trust. This is an almost sure way to end up in court, paying out a hefty chunk of your inheritance to attorneys. --
Upon realizing what had happened, Thompson's mother immediately sued her son's wife, accusing her of "coercing" Thompson to sign a "deathbed will" that left the wife his entire estate.
Thompson’s mother Clara, a former NYPD police officer, alleged that her daughter in law Lu-Shawn destroyed an earlier will that she believed left large bequests to multiple family members, including Thompson's mother. Clara also accused Lu-Shawn of being a "spend-thrift" and leaving several million dollars of assets out of the probate filing.
Mr. Thompson had apparently amassed large property holdings, not to mention valuable personal property and bank accounts during his career as a prestigious trial attorney. His wife's recent "relinquishment" of rights does not include any property rights.
Ken Thompson's family has no doubt endured severe emotional stress and heartbreak over his death and the ensuing estate litigation. If there's anything we can take from this story it's this: avoid death bed estate planning, especially when it comes to changing a previous will or trust.