Intestacy and Antlers
Having a thoughtfully considered and up-to-date Will is necessary not only to ensure that your intended beneficiaries share in your estate in a manner that it is appropriate and reflects your wishes, but also to minimize the potential for conflict after your death. This is especially important if you have “unique” assets – such as one of the world’s largest mounted deer heads.
The Ottawa Citizen recently reported a story of a southern Alberta family where litigation ensued after the patriarch of the family, Edmund Broder, died intestate in 1968, leaving his family, if you will, on the horns of a dilemma. Without a Will providing directions respecting how the mounted deer head was to be dealt with, Mr. Broder’s seven children were divided as to who should be entitled to the mounted deer head.
Mr. Broder’s mounted deer head was considered to be the world’s largest non-typical deer mule trophy, comprising 355 inches of antler, making it a set of antlers of almost Dr. Suessian proportions. The deer was shot by Mr. Broder in 1926, and the dear head was his prized asset.
A few years after Mr. Broder’s death, his eldest son, Don Broder, took the mounted deer head into his sole possession and began treating the head as his exclusive property. His six siblings ultimately sued in 1997 for its return to the Estate and, as one might be tempted to say, the hunt was on. The family was, unfortunately, in court for years. The case included a purported holograph will (found to be invalid since Mr. Broder was functionally illiterate and there was no evidence that the holograph will was in his handwriting), contempt of court for failing to turn over the deer head (which resulted in a 10 day jail term for Don, at the age of 74), and the ultimate discovery that the deer head could not be returned to the Estate because it had been sold by Don to a collector in Montana for $325,000.
Don recently died on April 11, 2012. Don’s son, Craig said, according to the Ottawa Citizen, "I feel sad some days about the deer head, about what it did to the family and how it did it … As sad as it is, there was no need for the fight. Had it been done properly at the beginning, there would have been no fight."
Thanks for reading. Have a nice weekend,