Ike Turner estate: kids v. ex-wife v. lawyer

VISTA: Ike Turner estate trial to begin
Late musician’s adult children fighting two handwritten wills
Teri Figueroa
September 16, 2009
North County Times (CA)
Twenty-one months after music pioneer Ike Turner died in the San Marcos home he was renting, nobody knows how much he is worth. There has not been an inventory of his intellectual property rights.

That doesn’t matter just yet. The trial to determine who inherits his estate —- whatever it may be worth —- starts Thursday in a Vista courtroom.

At issue are two handwritten wills purportedly penned by the musician in the last few years before the 76-year-old Turner died of a cocaine overdose on Dec. 12, 2007.

A number of people say they deserve a cut of Turner’s riches, if any remain after the legal battle.

There are three warring factions: Turner’s six adult children, his most recent ex-wife and his attorney.

Tensions appear to be high. Two weeks ago, one of the attorneys suggested that the judge consider having extra courtroom security during the trial.

The kids argue their father died without a valid will, thus they are the direct heirs under state law.

Ex-wife Audrey Madison Turner says her Grammy-winning former husband penned a handwritten will naming her as a beneficiary two months before he died.

And Turner’s attorney James Clayton produced a handwritten 2001 will in which Turner reportedly left everything to him, with instructions to contact one of Turner’s daughters to decide how to divvy up the estate.

The kids argue neither document —- scrawled, handwritten notes —- passes legal muster.

The trial is expected to run about two weeks. There will be no jury; Superior Court Judge Richard Cline will decide the matter.

Tug of war

A groundbreaking guitarist, pianist and bandleader who helped pioneer both early rock ‘n’ roll and modern rhythm and blues, Turner’s reputation was tarnished by his drug addiction, a stint in prison on drug-related charges and allegations on film and in print that he abused his famous former wife, Tina Turner.

Ike Turner had moved to San Marcos in 1991. In recent years, the musician had found critical acclaim when he returned to the rhythm and blues of his youth, releasing the Grammy-nominated “Here and Now” in 2001 and the Grammy-winning “Risin’ With the Blues” in 2006.

The tug of war over Turner’s estate has been as colorful as his life.

In probate court filings, Audrey Madison Turner submitted a copy of a handwritten will presumably penned by Ike Turner.

The will, dated Oct. 13, 2007, is a one-page statement leaving his estate to “x (sic) wife Audrey Madison Turner,” including “power of attorney over my health and finances.”

But Turner revoked that will in a note he presumably wrote a month later.

Another will allegedly handwritten by Ike Turner in October 2001 states that Turner wanted everything he owned to go to his attorney, Clayton, “in cace (sic) anything ever happens to me.”

Clayton was, in turn, to contact the singer’s daughter Twanna Melby, for her to “figur (sic) out what they want to do.”

Melby’s name is misspelled in the document.

Attorney Loedis Mathews, who is representing four of Turner’s six children, said last week that both wills are “highly suspect.”

‘We are suckers’

At a pretrial hearing in early September, one of the attorneys representing ex-wife Madison Turner laid out his concerns.

“We don’t know what the value of the estate is. Are we fighting over $4.39?” attorney Edwin Stegman said. “We are suckers, fighting, spending time and money and we don’t know over what.”

“You are preaching to the pope,” Judge Cline said at the time.

Dawn Hall-Cauthen, one of the attorneys from the firm hired to inventory Turner’s music rights, said there have been “difficulties in marshaling the assets of the estate.”

One of the music companies that handled Turner’s recordings has frozen all the accounting information in the face of the court battle, she said.

Easier to appraise has been Turner’s tangible items, among them a 2008 Mercedes valued at $82,000 and a Fender Stratocaster guitar imprinted with the words “custom made for Ike Turner” valued at $8,000.

The list, part of the court files, also includes two guitars Turner had said were played by Jimi Hendrix, and dresses believed to have been worn by ex-wife Tina Turner during performances.

In all, the items have an estimated value of around $136,000, according to court documents.

And hovering over all of it: attorneys fees and other costs associated with administering his estate since his death.

Stegman accused Hall-Cauthen’s firm of having racked up costs of at least $136,000.

In court, Hall-Cauthen said Stegman’s cost estimation was “inaccurate.”

At the end of the coming trial, everyone will know if they get a cut of Turner’s worth. How much they will get is the big unknown.