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Probate litigation gears up in estate of deceased football star

Estate disputes in Ohio and elsewhere can be complicated and involve a web of issues that may take some painstaking analyses by the courts to unravel and resolve. This is true of the probate litigation that has emanated from the estate of football star Aaron Hernandez, who died by suicide in prison last year. His conviction was vacated by an appellate court after Hernandez died.

The state courts have put a hold on various monetary sums that were collected by the estate pending resolution of competing claims for the money. Recently, an attorney for the Hernandez estate petitioned the probate court to release $100,000 for payment of fees and expenses incurred in administering the estate. The family of the deceased man who Hernandez had originally been convicted of killing is opposing the petition.

The fact that the criminal conviction was vacated by the appellate courts does not affect the validity or viability of the civil action for wrongful death brought by the victim's mother. A wrongful death case has a lower standard of proof than a criminal conviction. This means that one can be responsible for civil damages to a claimant despite having been absolved criminally for the killing.

A January sale of Hernandez's home brought $735,000 that was deposited into the estate under court control. The mother of Hernandez's minor daughter then filed a homestead claim against the proceeds, claiming that her child is entitled to $500,000 of the proceeds. The probate court has ordered the $500,000 to be held in escrow pending resolution of the probate litigation. These disputes will likely turn on the specific wording and details of the state statutes where the Hernandez estate is being probated. Complications such as these arise also in the Ohio probate courts where they are resolved by trial if not otherwise settled.

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