Harper Lee’s will keeps her private wishes private

| Mar 2, 2018 | Wills & Trusts

Harper Lee wrote one of the great American novels, upon which a classic film was based. Despite the critical acclaim and commercial success of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” there are many lingering questions about the reclusive novelist who died two years ago at 89.

People wondered why Lee decided so late in life to publish a second novel and wondered, too, if she had held back other unpublished works. And who would inherit her estate worth many millions, along with her papers? The recent unsealing of Lee’s will does not answer those questions. Rather, the will does what it was intended to do: it keeps Harper Lee’s final wishes private.

The will was signed just a few days before her death a little more than two years ago. It states that most of her assets, including her literary papers, are to be transferred to a trust she created in 2011.

Because trust documents can be kept private, questions remain about which institution will inherit her papers, and who will inherit her wealth. Because Lee never married and had no children, her closest living relatives are a niece and three nephews.

They are each identified as heirs to receive an undisclosed portion of her assets.

Lee’s longtime attorney is executor of the estate. Tonja B. Carter argued successfully in an Alabama court to have the will sealed. But the New York Times fought to have the document made public; a request that was granted just days ago.

Even so, the will reveals little about what is to become of Lee’s estate.

An estate and trusts attorney told a newspaper reporter that the will was not an uncommon one for people of means who want to keep their final wishes private. It basically moves all assets to the trust. And the guiding directives Lee left for the trust do not have to be shared publicly.

Harper Lee was a private person in life and continues to be private even after passing on.

Her last wishes are being carried out away from the spotlight and without tabloid-generated controversy.

That is what she wanted and what she is getting.

To discuss how you can get what you want from your estate plan, contact the Brevard County law firm of Cantwell & Goldman PA.