Great Feuds over Inheritance

Sometimes, like oil and water, family and money just don’t mix. And in extremely rare cases, families even dispute over not only money or property, but the remains of their loved one! Discover more about some of the well-known family feuds here in this gallery.


The late Fred Koch’s four sons — Charles, David, William, and Frederick — eventually were involved, for over twenty years, an intense sibling rivalry against each other regarding the control of the energy conglomerate Koch Industries which was founded by their father. During the 1980s and 1990s, the brothers’ lawyers earned vast sums of money from the protracted dispute. The warring parties came into a sort of ceasefire with an agreement in 2001. But the intense and bitter feud among the brothers was vividly captured in a recently-published book entitled Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty.  

Brooke Astor

The wealthy and eminent New York socialite and philanthropist died at the age of 105 in 2007. Astor’s only son, Anthony D. Marshall, became the sole executor of her estate worth $198 million. That is, until 2006, when his own son Philip accused of him of robbing from Astor millions of dollars during the final years of her life. Despite the fact Astor had died and was no longer there to take action, the case still pushed through. After a protracted and well-publicized trial, Anthony Marshall was eventually found guilty of numerous crimes including fraud and first-degree larceny and was sentenced to 1 to 3 years behind bars in 2010.

However, in 2013 Anthony Marshall was immediately granted a medical parole when it was discovered he was too sick and frail to continue his sentence. Marshall died in 2014, aged 90, from a variety of health problems including Parkinson’s disease.

Ted Williams

Unlike other families who usually fight over money or estate, the family of the late baseball legend Ted Williams fought over a bizarre reason — his remains!

In 1996 Williams’ will mentioned his wish to be cremated and his ashes scattered to the sea. But following his death in 2002, the executor of Williams’ estate claimed that he wanted to cryogenically frozen, which won the approval of his two children. They even showed a document their father had signed which stated that the three of them all agreed to be frozen because they desired to be reunited with each other one day, “even if it is only a chance.” However, Williams’ eldest daughter was strongly against it, but after running out of funds for continuing the legal disputes, she backed out. Ted Williams’ body is frozen; his head is severed from his body for whatever twisted reason. Two years after he died, Williams’ son passed away from leukemia, and his own body is also frozen.

Sumner Redstone

A feud broke out between Sumner Redstone and his daughter Shari over the control of the family company. A family trust mentioned that Shari would assume the presidency of National Amusements theater chain upon Sumner’s death. However, Sumner was having second thoughts about his daughter taking over his role. In 2007, father and daughter feuded publicly over issues of corporate governance and the sale of shares. Although that has since lulled, it would be interesting to see what happens when Sumner dies. At 91 years old, Sumner is still president of National Amusements.

Robert Mondavi

Robert Mondavi established his now famous winery following a dispute with his brother Peter over the control of their family-owned business during the 1960s. Robert’s son quit his father’s business and struck out on his own by founding his own winery.

Leona Helmsley

When the infamous “Queen of Mean” passed away in 2007, she left most of her wealth to a charitable trust, as well as a $12 million trust fund for her Maltese pooch, Trouble. Eventually, a judged cut down the dog’s trust fund to $2 million and awarded the other portion of the trust fund to two of Helmsley’s grandchildren, who had been left out of her will.


Jimmy brought a lawsuit against his brother Larry after the latter dismissed him from the family-owned Hustler empire. It occurred a few years after Larry had fired Jimmy’s sons and brought a lawsuit against them, preventing them from using the family name on a second-rate pornographic product.

Joan Crawford & Christina Crawford

Following the death of actress Joan Crawford in 1977, her daughter Christina published a not-so-savory memoir where she said that her mother was an alcoholic who abused her when she and the other children adopted by Crawford were children. The book was later made into a 1981 film. Some people say that Christina published the scathing memoir because she resented that fact that she and her brother Christopher had been left out of their mother’s will.

J. Howard Marshall II

When Texas oil magnate J. Howard Marshall II died in 1995, his young, latest wife Anna Nicole Smith was less than pleased when she discovered that the old man bequeathed all of his wealth to his younger son, E. Pierce Marshall. Smith, for a while, joined forces with the other son, J. Howard Marshall III, whom the elder Marshall had disowned. When E. Pierce Marshall died in 2006, his widow continued the case on behalf of his estate. Smith continued to fight the decision in court until her death in 2007.

James Brown

When the “Godfather of Soul” James Brown died at the age of 73 in 2006, he left behind an estate worth about $100 million. Before his death, he had written in his will stating that he wanted to split the money between two trusts: one for the education of his grandchildren and another to fund the education of the poor children in South Carolina and Georgia. His will also stated that in case he failed to provide for any of his kin, “such failure is intentional and not occasioned by accident or mistake.”

In spite of this, Brown’s family challenged against the will in 2009 and were finally given half of Brown’s wealth by the court. However, that decision was otherwise disputed by record producer Jacque Hollander, who had assisted the late soul legend with the initial trusts for the nonprofits and now wants to get the money originally meant for the trusts.

H.L. Hunt

Texas oil magnate H.L. Hunt was one of the richest men in the country during his time. He split his wealth into several trusts for his family. In 2008, Albert G. Hill III, Hunt’s first great-grandchild, sued members of his family — his father, his sisters, his aunts, as well as the elder Hunt’s nephew Tom Hunt — saying that they mishandled his grandmother’s and great uncle’s trust funds, as well as the Hunt Petroleum, the primary asset. The dispute intensified when Tom Hunt, who was Hunt Petroleum’s chairman at that time, chose to sell the company. Hill III was later stripped of his inheritance, detaching himself from the family-owned venture. Hunt Petroleum was eventually sold to XTO Energy.