Estate of Michigan songwriter sues widow alleging fraud

The beneficiaries of a late Michigan songwriter’s estate filed a legal action against his 64-year-old widow alleging that she had taken advantage of him while he suffered from dementia. The songwriter’s three sons accuse the widow of convincing their late father to sign over all of the future rights and royalties to hundreds of rhythm and blues songs that he wrote during his lifetime. Reportedly, the widow received two checks in exchange for selling a catalog of his songs, which includes the classic 1965 R&B hit “Mustang Sally.” 

The Detroit News reported on how the songwriter suffered from dementia when he signed over the rights to his songs for less than their true value. Accordingly, he was of an “unsound mind” at the time of the deal and he was not aware of the consequences of the arrangement his signature authorized.  

Check allegedly went to a fictitious business 

The company that paid the widow an undisclosed sum of money to receive the rights and royalties was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The estate’s complaint alleges that the widow negotiated the sale of the songs for herself for less than their true value, and that she personally benefited from the deal. Shortly after the agreement’s signing, the songwriter’s checking account issued a check for $50,000, which purportedly went to a fictitious business that the widow owned.  

suspicious estate-related transaction may signal elder abuse 

Although she managed his business affairs before and during their marriage, the songwriter’s widow did not hold a valid license to act as his personal agency. Because of her alleged unlicensed actions, the estate is suing to invalidate the sale of the song catalog and seeks an award of damages and financial relief.  

Elder abuse includes taking advantage of a vulnerable individual who shows signs of dementia. According to state law, there are differences between the decision-making authorities of a personal guardian, conservator, business manager or legally recognized estate agent.