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Clear as mud: Probate fight over blues legend's estate drags on

During his 70 years, Muddy Waters was known for pioneering an electric form of the blues that influenced generations of musicians, including seminal rock icons Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. The blues legend left an untouchable musical legacy, but his financial legacy is being fought over in courts from Florida to Chicago.

Attorneys for the estate of the late bluesman (he died in 1983) are asking an Illinois probate court to rule that his former management company, along with the widow and son of his former manager, owe the heirs of McKinley Morganfield (Waters’ real name) more than $2 million.

The fight over royalties from Waters’ music catalog is a complicated one, as you might expect. His heirs claim that Waters’ former management company, The Cameron Organization, owes $2 million to his estate. The president of the management company, Scott Cameron, died in 2015. He managed Waters late in his career and was named executor of the estate.

His widow, Elizabeth Cameron, has failed to appear in the Illinois courtroom in person or by video link from Florida, where she lives. One wonders about the advice Cameron is getting – she is representing herself in the probate battle and has been held in contempt of court by the judge for her failures to appear for more than a year.

Though Cameron hasn’t appeared for the probate court hearings, she has continued to file motions in the case, according to the Chicago Tribune. She has more than once contended in a filing that the original Waters’ will forbids anyone in his family from administering his estate.

In an email to the Tribune, Cameron wrote, “It’s time now for the family benefactors to realize McKinley Morganfield’s will and get nothing!”

In fact, Cameron has asked the court to award her $50 million, including $38 million for “stress damages.”

No matter how this dispute is resolved, it seems clear that in complicated legal matters such as this, it is best to seek the advice of a knowledgeable attorney experienced in estate administration and probate law.

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