When Priscilla Presley contested her late daughter’s will last weekit raised the prospect of family discord and a messy court battle over who would manage Elvis’ lucrative estate.
But legal experts say the court is likely to uphold Priscilla’s lawsuit.
In a Los Angeles court, Presley asked a judge to invalidate a newly discovered 2016 document that replaced Presley and Barry Siegel (her daughter’s former manager) as trustees for Lisa Marie Presley of Lisa Marie children, Riley and Benjamin Keough.
Elvis’ ex-wife cited various factors, including the fact that her daughter’s signature could have been forged.
Attorney Benny Roshan, chair of Greenberg Glasker’s trusts and probates litigation group, said Priscilla Presley has a good case.
“They have made allegations that are very valid concerns,” Roshan said.
While the filing does not reveal any feud between mother and daughter, it has brought the family’s personal affairs, rather than the rock and roll star’s legacy, into a public forum.
According to her Jan. 26 petition, Lisa Marie Presley named her mother and Siegel as co-trustees of her trust in 1993.
But after she died Jan. 12 in Los Angeles, her mother said she found an amendment to the will dated March 11, 2016, that replaced them both as trustees after her death.
Priscilla Presley claimed that the amendment was never delivered to her while Lisa Marie was alive, as required in the original trust. In her petition, she dated the document with Priscilla’s name in error; that her signature looked inconsistent with her usual signature; and it was neither witnessed nor notarized.
“These are very good points,” said Cynthia Britton of Karlin & Peebles. “If everything is as they paint it, the case law is pretty clear.”
Not only does the original trust deed outline the process for amending it, California law provides for enforcement of orders set forth in such a deed, Roshan said.
“California law supports Priscilla’s position that if a document provides for a certain method of cancellation, amendment or modification and you fail to do so, then it is a void document,” Roshan said. “You have several reasons to challenge this new amendment.”
Sarah J. Wentz, a Fox Rothschild partner, agreed.
“I think she does [have a good case]”, – said Wentz. “Unfortunately [Riley] has some claim that she has been biased and that the trustee cannot be fair and impartial to her, I think Priscilla will remain the trustee.
Wentz also noted that the petition emphasized that the signature on the amendment did not include any text of the amendment, which Priscilla Presley said in her petition “may present a higher risk of fraud.”
If the disagreement requires a court to investigate the authenticity of the signature, the jury will decide the issue, said Ryan Sellers of the law firm Hales & Sellers.
Such disputes about the validity of wills are common, especially in cases involving high-ranking individuals.
“Very often relatives come forward and challenge a certain change made during the life of the deceased,” said Roshan.
Despite the legal dispute, Priscilla Presley denied any family discord in a statement on Friday.
“I loved Elvis very much, and he loved me,” she said. “Lisa is the result of our love. For anyone to think otherwise would be a disrespect to the family legacy and what Elvis left behind in his life.”
Lisa Marie Presley survived her three daughters, actor Riley Keough, 33, and twins Harper and Finley Lockwood from two different ex-husbands. Her son Benjamin died in 2020 at the age of 27 years.
The children have not yet commented on Priscilla’s statement. A spokesman for Riley Keough did not respond to The Times’ request for comment.
Lisa Marie’s stake in the Elvis estate has faded over the years, but remains significant, including Graceland, which attracts fans. She also retained ownership of her father’s suits, cars, awards and other possessions, according to the mansion’s website.
The Graceland property is in a trust that will now benefit Lisa Marie’s children, a Graceland spokesman said earlier. “Nothing will change with operations and management,” the spokesman said.
Joel Weinshanker, managing partner of Elvis Presley Enterprises, the corporation founded by the Elvis Presley Trust that was once owned by Lisa Marie, said this week that she always intended for her two children to run the estate.
“There was never any question in her mind that they would be stewards, that they would look at it exactly the same way she did,” he said.
In 2018, Siegel and Lisa Marie Presley fought in court. That year, she claimed she was more than $16 million in debt and sued Siegel for alleged financial abuse. Her former manager then countersued, accusing Presley of squandering her inheritance and owing him money.
Siegel either planned to or had already resigned as trustee, the report said. According to the petition, Siegel will be replaced by Lisa Marie’s daughter, Riley Keough.
It’s unclear whether Presley’s granddaughter, Riley, wanted to serve as trustee of the estate along with Priscilla, which could complicate the court’s decision, Britton said.
Britton said a judge may find that if the granddaughter does not want to serve with her grandmother, or if there is some kind of discord, that their union may not be in the best interests of the beneficiaries.
“We often put in corporate trustees when there’s a family conflict,” Britton said. “The family has suffered a huge loss because of Number 1 and everyone is grieving. Sometimes people cling to control not because they are in control, but as a way of staying close to the deceased. Perhaps the applicant believes that this way she can be closer to her granddaughter.”