Schedule A Consultation Today 425-333-2358

Helping You Plan Your Future And Solve Your Problems

View Our Practice Areas

Combative author leaves behind a legal dispute over his will

Even many of those Washington residents who never read one of Gore Vidal's novels or saw one of his plays knew who he was. For decades, the author was known as much for his wit as for his literary works. That wit made him a great interview subject for magazine profiles and documentary filmmakers, and it also made him a formidable adversary in a number of feuds with other artists and intellectuals. That kind of dispute is carrying on after his death last year. A legal dispute now pits Vidal's family members against administrators of a trust he left behind.

Vidal's half-sister has challenged the author's will, in which he left his entire estate to Harvard University. According to her complaint, Vidal revised his will the year before he died to give his estate - reportedly worth $37 million, plus continuing royalties from his literary works - to a university he never attended. The bequest to the university came in the form of a trust that controls the late author's estate and its future earnings. The half-sister argues that dementia and alcoholism had rendered Vidal incapable of creating a valid will at the time.

According to family members, Vidal's previous will had given his entire estate to his longtime partner, but his partner died in 2003, sending Vidal into a long mental decline. They said he began drinking heavily and began to show signs of dementia.

To leave a valid will, a person must have testamentary capacity. That is, the person must pass certain requirements of mental competency. If they believe the person lacked testamentary capacity, family members or other interested parties may contest the will in probate court.

To reduce the complexity of probate proceedings and try to avoid the chance that loved ones don't have to go through a legal dispute at a difficult time, it is always a good idea to get a will written before any question of mental capacity has arisen. It's also a good idea to discuss estate plans with one's relatives. A Washington attorney with experience in estate planning can advise on how to handle these matters with efficiency and sensitivity.

Source: New York Times, "For Gore Vidal, a Final Plot Twist," Tim Teeman, Nov. 8, 2013

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Make Your Consultation Appointment

To speak with an attorney at Gellner Law Group about estate planning, probate, trusts, wills or tax controversy, contact our law office in Kent, Washington, today. You can call 425-336-2908 or send us an email. We provide representation across the entire Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area.

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

Email Us

Kent Office
8407 S. 259th Street
Suite 203
Kent, WA 98030

Phone: 425-336-2908
Fax: 253-852-0400
Kent Law Office Map

Kent Office

Spokane Office
505 W. Riverside Avenue
Suite 500
Spokane, WA 99201

Phone: 425-336-2908
Fax: 509-769-0202
Map & Directions

Spokane Office