Judge rules B.B. King’s manager will continue to run his estate

Blues legend B.B. King’s longtime manager was appointed personal representative of his estate Thursday over the objection of five of his daughters.

Clark County District Judge Gloria Sturman made the ruling after a hearing in the probate case. She said King’s plans were expressed in his 2007 will, which designated manager LaVerne Toney as the sole executor of his estate.

“I haven’t seen anything that tells me he would have wanted that changed,” the judge said.

Sturman also entered the will into probate at the hearing.

“I think I should feel relieved, but I don’t think this thing is over,” Toney later told reporters.

Lawyers have rushed to file court documents in the contentious case since King’s death on May 14. King, whose legal name was Riley B. King, was in hospice care when he died in his Las Vegas home at age 89.

He had 11 surviving adult children.

Five daughters objected to Toney’s appointment as personal representative of his estate. They argued she should be disqualified because of conflicts of interest and her alleged embezzlement of more than $1 million from their father. They also accused her of sequestering their father from all family and friends during his dying days.

Toney’s attorney, Brent Bryson of Las Vegas, said she transferred the contested money into King’s trust account after his death and never misappropriated any funds. Bryson also said Toney followed a protocol requested by King for arranging visits before his death.

Sturman pointed out that Toney helped manage King’s affairs for some 40 years.

“He never in anything that he did indicate that he had, in fact, lost trust in Ms. Toney,” the judge said.

Sturman described King as “incredibly loyal to the people that had been with him a long time.”

“What strikes me about Mr. King is that he had very long-term relationships with people,” the judge said.

The four daughters who originally objected to Toney’s appointment are Patty King, Karen Williams, Rita Washington and Barbara Winfree. A fifth daughter, Rubystein Davis, filed an affidavit Monday in support of the objection but did not appear in court.

Washington, who lives in North Las Vegas, said she last saw her father on April 22 at his home.

“I was upset I had to make an appointment to see my own dad,” she said after Thursday’s court hearing.

Washington said Toney’s appointment means she and her sisters are “SOL,” a slang term meaning “s—- out of luck.”

“She’s not going to look out for us,” Washington said.

Florida attorneys Benjamin Crump and Jose Baez are assisting Las Vegas attorney Larissa Drohobyczer, who represents the group of four daughters.

Crump gained national prominence when he represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager killed by a neighborhood watch organizer in 2012. Baez is best known for his representation of Casey Anthony, a Florida woman who was acquitted after being charged in the death of her 3-year-old daughter in 2011.

Las Vegas attorney Arthur Williams Jr. has said he drafted King’s will in 2007 and is unaware of any other will made after that.

In court, Drohobyczer said Thursday’s hearing was premature because Las Vegas police have not completed their investigation of the theft allegation against Toney, and results of King’s autopsy are not yet available.

After the hearing, Crump said he and Baez are conducting an independent investigation of King’s death and estate.

“The family, just to be completely clear, just wants to make sure everything is done appropriately,” Crump told reporters.

He and Baez distanced themselves from accusations made by Patty King and Williams shortly after the musician’s death. The two women alleged that Toney and another aide had hastened their father’s death by poisoning him.

“There are no allegations of any murder or anything of the kind,” Baez said. “No one’s throwing stones here.”

Crump said King’s children “were very emotional at the time of their father’s death. They wanted to know what was going on because they had not been allowed to see their father.”

Baez later added, “This family feels that Mr. King died prematurely.”

Bradley Richardson, a Las Vegas attorney representing one of King’s grandsons, also attended Thursday’s hearing.

The grandson, Eric Mitchell Jr., has expressed concern in court papers that “important rights of family members to Mr. King’s intellectual properties might be getting overlooked.”

Sturman said Mitchell raised an important issue. King left an “amazing body of work” for his family, the judge said, and someone needs to protect his legacy.

“This music that is so important to America — I mean it’s uniquely American music,” Sturman said. “I really feel very strongly about this, that somebody’s got to protect it.”

She said the family may need additional assistance with this “sophisticated and complex issue.”


Judge rules B.B. King’s manager will continue to run his estate
Carri Geer Thevenot
June 25, 2015
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Additional coverage:

B.B. King’s manager named estate executor, despite daughters’ objections
Ken Ritter/The Associated Press
June 26, 2015

LAS VEGAS — B.B. King’s longtime business manager was named sole executor of his estate Thursday, despite objections from a lawyer for four of the late blues icon’s daughters.

Clark County District Judge Gloria Sturman first refused to let prominent national attorneys Benjamin Crump and Jose Baez contest King’s will on behalf of daughters Karen Williams, Patty King, Rita Washington and Barbara Winfree.

The will, filed in January 2007, puts LaVerne Toney alone in charge of administering King’s assets, his property and his trust. The trust documents have not been filed publicly.

The judge then rejected efforts by Las Vegas attorney Larissa Drohobyczer to cast Toney as having misused her power of attorney while B.B. King was alive to move about $1 million from personal to joint bank accounts to which she had access, and to block relatives from visiting King in his dying days.

“A million dollars is a big deal,” Sturman said. But she left the argument for another day.

“I’m not saying there may not be other issues, or that we may not need outside assistance,” she said. “But he had a plan. I don’t see anything before me at this point in time that he wanted that changed.”

Attorney Brent Bryson, lawyer for the estate and Toney, said claims by the daughters that Toney stole from their father, isolated him and poisoned him before his May 14 death at age 89 have no basis in fact.

The family members have provided no evidence that a competing will exists, he said.

“There has to be more to the objections than hollow allegations and innuendo,” Bryson said.

Sturman said several times she admired that B.B. King continued to play hundreds of concerts a year until October, when he collapsed during a concert in Chicago.

“He worked his entire life to provide for his family,” the judge told the daughters as she named Toney as executor. “The thing he left for you is his amazing body of work. Somebody has got to make sure that his legacy is protected.”

King has 11 surviving adult children, and family members count 35 grandchildren.

The will was filed May 20 under King’s birth name, Riley B. King. It leaves everything to the estate and Toney, who managed King’s road show business for 39 years. It lists one daughter, Riletta Mitchell, as second to Toney as executor, but Mitchell died in September.

Her son, Eric Mitchell II, was represented in court Thursday by Las Vegas attorney Bradley Richardson, who asked the judge to protect King’s intellectual property and royalty rights for his heirs.

“It’s far past time to pull this out of the public eye,” Mitchell said by telephone from Chicago. “The concern is that my grandfather was a private person and wouldn’t have wanted this. It’s time for the wild accusations to stop.”

Bryson and Toney declined outside court to estimate the value of King’s estate. Drohobyczer said last week she thinks the estate is worth between $5 million and $10 million.

Crump and Baez said Thursday they’ll continue investigating whether King was properly cared for before he died.