“Sound mind” could become contentious as timing of Alzheimer’s diagnosis raises questions about how much influence the country icon’s widow had on the estate.
When Glen Campbell wrote his will a decade ago, he explicitly cut the children of his second marriage out of what’s estimated to be a $50 million inheritance.
Since then, those kids have had to sue in order to see their dad once his Alzheimer’s disease progressed to the point where he needed round-the-clock nursing home care.
By that point, it was too late to change the will and he probably didn’t recognize them anyway.
The question is when the fourth wife — who blocked their visits and now serves as executor of the estate — took over and closed the window for reconciliation.
After all, she and her kids now have a lock on the vast majority of what the Wichita Lineman left behind. And given the typical Alzheimer’s timeline, a lawyer could argue that he was impaired when he wrote that will.
King Lear in Nashville
Similar stories play have played out since before Shakespeare. Mom and Dad split up, remarry, start new families. The children of earlier marriages get pushed to the background and when it’s time to update the will, they’re at a disadvantage.
The older kids often have conflicted loyalties and plenty of time to nurse grudges. The current spouse has plenty of opportunities to widen the emotional wedges.
The Campbell clan is a little more complicated because only one of the sub-families fell from grace. The first and third wife each gave the singer one child and those kids weren’t cut from the will.
That tells us that whatever happened with this particular trio of Campbell kids probably wasn’t a blanket ban on all the stepsons and -daughters. Maybe there was a break, some specific dispute or misunderstanding that drove them apart.
But a decade is a long time to stay angry, and that’s where the spouse as gatekeeper comes in. Look at performance footage from 2006 and Campbell looks like he’s in full command of his faculties — a little stiffer than he was in his glory years, but not bad for a 70-year-old.
That’s when he wrote the will. Odds are good he meant every word of it at the time.
After that point, the timeline gets more personal. He came public with the disease in 2011 and managed to perform for another couple of years before he finally had to quit.
He could’ve revised the will at any point to reinstate the middle kids. Maybe he would’ve relented under the right circumstances, but it’s all hypothetical because that scenario never actually happened.
And with his health in a gradual decline over the period, it’s hard to say just when the window of opportunity shut. Either way, during that timeframe, he leaned on his wife for guidance and cues.
She evidently didn’t guide him to reinstate the kids. That’s her right and responsibility as the person who had to interpret his wishes and back them up with the hard estate planning choices.
Incentive to complain
The kids can argue that she blocked them in the final years, preventing a last reconciliation that reopened their place in his heart if not his fortune.
There’s enough money at stake that their lawyers will probably make that argument. After all, they already sued to get visitation in his final months, so there’s a precedent the courts are willing to hear.
Campbell didn’t write most of his hits, so there’s not a lot of blockbuster publishing at stake. But with over 60 albums of material and a final record released months before his death, the nostalgia rights could still enrich the estate significantly.
In the here and now, he apparently had a substantial real estate empire in and around Nashville. Under Tennessee law, the widow is entitled to as much as 40% of the estate, and since she’s executing the will, odds are good she’ll get at least that much here.
Supposedly half of the property is already in trust so the income will be easy enough to split among the heirs. While the rest probably takes a big estate tax hit, anything left can be liquidated or kept.
Split a hypothetical 60% of the trust across eight kids and you’re still looking at a healthy $1.8 million apiece — not enough to build a dynasty, but most of the kids are closer to retirement than college at this point anyway.
Cutting three kids out of that math swells the per-child cut to $3 million. For them, the difference is a matter of degree. For the ones written out of the will, it’s a big enough slight to fight.
Naturally the estate will have to pay to defend itself, reducing the amount of money available for everyone. Will it be worth it to settle with the disinherited branch? Right now only the executor knows for sure.