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E. Gary Gygax Sr. May Have Had Another, More Recent Will?


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Zardnaar

Legend
Assuming it's authentic the mist recent one is legally relevant?

Here you don't have to file them but you have to be in sound mind. Hand written note pad is legal.
 

Mistwell

Legend
Assuming it's authentic the mist recent one is legally relevant?

Here you don't have to file them but you have to be in sound mind. Hand written note pad is legal.
The most recent one generally overrides all prior ones. If it's legit, and met the requirements for a will, and was in fact more recent, it could change a lot about who owns what in the estate.

Right now though it's pure speculation.
 


Mistwell

Legend
Gary died a little over 12 years ago. Is it estate still in probate or something? Is there a reason Luke Gygax didn't file this sometime in the last decade? It's just weird.
Yes that's explained in the podcast. There was a recent lawsuit against Gail Gygax which was suddenly and mysteriously dropped by a Hollywood Producer (possibly related to this), and then GaryCon was canceled which cost the family a lot of money. So, the theory is they finally are going ahead with this probate so the kids can get control of the Gary Intellectual Property and cut a deal with the producer which Gail wouldn't do because the Producer insisted on including Luke in the deal.
 

GreyLord

Adventurer
Gary died a little over 12 years ago. Is it estate still in probate or something? Is there a reason Luke Gygax didn't file this sometime in the last decade? It's just weird.
This is an excellent question. If it was valid, the question is why it wasn't filed more recently, and what was the aegis for Gail that was against them in filing?

Seems weird. Hopefully good luck to all involved.
 


Mistwell

Legend
So not even a filing? Pure raw speculation? This is ghoulish.
What do you mean not even a filing? Yes, there is a filing. It's in the first post. That is the whole story. With an image and everything. It is Walworth County Case Number 2020PR000058 In the Estate of Ernest Gary Gygax Sr..

The speculation is as to why, not whether.
 
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Mistwell

Legend
This is an excellent question. If it was valid, the question is why it wasn't filed more recently, and what was the aegis for Gail that was against them in filing?

Seems weird. Hopefully good luck to all involved.
This is what I've pieced together from my readings on this and listening to the podcast. Where there is speculation I will try to put a question mark or simply use the word speculation, but I am no expert on this and it's just a brief summary of what seems to be much more complex than my pay grade:

1) Gary dies, a will is probated by his wife Gail Gygax, the estate goes to her (there is a family trust involved, but those details are too in the weeds for this review).

2) A second will is located. The kids of Gary are made aware of it, and it apparently (?) gives most or all of the estate to them instead of Gail Gygax. For a variety of reasons the kids of Gary don't want to pursue this at the time of discovery. Speculation - they just don't want to make waves.

3) Some of the kids of Gary and Gail Gygax had a falling out at some point. Some of that falling out involved the Gygax magazine. Some good will between some of the kids and Gail Gygax is burnt during that time.

4) A Hollywood producer wants to develop something from the Intellectual Property of the estate. But he wants it to be done with both Gail Gygax (his wife) and Luke Gygax (one of his sons) as co-owners of the IP? Gail apparently refuses due to a falling out she's had with Luke? Speculation - the producer was asking to include Luke because he was made aware of a possible later will and felt his IP rights would not be secure if they didn't jointly agree.

5) The producer sues Gail Gygax over the agreement they had of some sort. But, suddenly he drops the lawsuit recently. Speculation enters - did he drop the lawsuit because he decided even if he won the lawsuit, the second will could be found valid and he'd have won nothing because Gail wouldn't be the owner of the IP he's suing over anyway?

6) GaryCon, which generates revenue for the kids of Gygax every year, was canceled due to Covid-19. It takes place online this year, but there is obviously some level of revenue hit from this. The day GaryCon was supposed to happen this year, is the same day this lawsuit/probate claim was filed by Luke to decide on the new will.

7) Speculation from Tenkar's Tavern - between the double wammies of the producer wanting to produce material from the IP with a kid of Gary's (Luke) and not being able to without a will being decided in the favor of the kids, and the cancellation of GaryCon which was going to bring in revenue for the kids of Gary, the kids of Gary decided it was finally time to adjudicate the second will to resolve these outstanding issues which had such imminent financial implications for them.

Those are the supposed reasons for why now.
 

MGibster

Hero
I don't really have any skin in this particular game, but I don't know how well Luke is going to fare. I see Gail's attorney has objected to the admission of this new last will and testament as well as the appointment of Lucien as the personal representative (I think that's the executor of the will). It's apparent Luke was fine with how the property was distributed years ago and has only recently changed his mind. I'm not a lawyer, but I can certainly see a judge telling Luke, "It's too late. You were given an opportunity to make your case years ago before the estate had been settled. Objection sustained." In Wisconsin, probate must be finished within 18 months but a judge may grant an extension if necessary. I don't think Luke will fare well here.
 

Mistwell

Legend
I don't really have any skin in this particular game, but I don't know how well Luke is going to fare. I see Gail's attorney has objected to the admission of this new last will and testament as well as the appointment of Lucien as the personal representative (I think that's the executor of the will). It's apparent Luke was fine with how the property was distributed years ago and has only recently changed his mind. I'm not a lawyer, but I can certainly see a judge telling Luke, "It's too late. You were given an opportunity to make your case years ago before the estate had been settled. Objection sustained." In Wisconsin, probate must be finished within 18 months but a judge may grant an extension if necessary. I don't think Luke will fare well here.
I suspect this is all more complicated than we can suss out from what we have. I think a lot of this involves Gail's management of the trust. Even if a new will were found to have been probated too late, if it's found to be real, then it can serve to force certain actions under the management of the existing trust as an indication of the decedent's intent behind how they wanted the trust to be run. Which is why I say some of this is just beyond my pay grade, and the trust details too in the weeds for me.

But bottom line, the adjudication of the old will can be found to be valid while simultaneously the adjudication of this new will to have been real (but brought too late) can change how the old will is managed by the trustee.
 

darjr

I crit!
Tenkar is one of those 'angry' pot stirrers I'm done with on the net. No thanks. I'll wait till Luke wants to talk about it.
 
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Mistwell

Legend
Tenkar is one of those 'angry' pot stirrers I'm done with on the net. No thanks. I'll wait till Luke wants to talk about it.
He just got out of the hospital after a prolonged and pretty intense health battle. He doesn't seem very angry at the moment. Just thankful to be alive. But yes he's a gossip columnist in the style of Rich Johnson for Comics industry gossip.
 

MGibster

Hero
I suspect this is all more complicated than we can suss out from what we have. I think a lot of this involves Gail's management of the trust.
I imagine you're correct but Luke's feelings regarding Gail's management of the trust isn't really relevant from a legal perspective.

Even if a new will were found to have been probated too late, if it's found to be real, then it can serve to force certain actions under the management of the existing trust as an indication of the decedent's intent behind how they wanted the trust to be run. Which is why I say some of this is just beyond my pay grade, and the trust details too in the weeds for me.
Wisconsin has a time limit of 18 months for probate to be completed which gives ample time for disputes to be settled, taxes to be paid, and creditors to be notified. The reason most states have a limit on how long probate should take is so people can take care of their business, get on with their lives, and not worry that ten years from now someone is going to show up to challenge it.

But bottom line, the adjudication of the old will can be found to be valid while simultaneously the adjudication of this new will to have been real (but brought too late) can change how the old will is managed by the trustee.
This isn't a situation where the most recent will was lost or hidden before being discovered as those who had custody and/or knowledge of Gary's most recent will deliberately withheld it from the court. In Wisconsin, the person who has custody of the will is required by law to either file it with the court or present it to the personal representative within 30 days of finding out about the death of the testator. Any person who has reason to believe a will exist and has not been filed is required to inform the court within 30 days after they have that information.

The Gygax children deliberately flouted the law when they failed to bring up Gary's most recent will back in 2008. I don't believe the judge will be at all sympathetic to Luke's case. The time to bring the most recent will to the court's attention was twelve years ago. The Gygax children made their bed and now they've got to lay in it.
 


Mistwell

Legend
I imagine you're correct but Luke's feelings regarding Gail's management of the trust isn't really relevant from a legal perspective.
He's a beneficiary I believe. He has standing to challenge the trustee actions under the trust.

Wisconsin has a time limit of 18 months for probate to be completed which gives ample time for disputes to be settled, taxes to be paid, and creditors to be notified. The reason most states have a limit on how long probate should take is so people can take care of their business, get on with their lives, and not worry that ten years from now someone is going to show up to challenge it.
All true, and not what I am referring to.

There is a family trust. Gail Gygax manages that trust, and she is a beneficiary along with, I think, all the children of Gary Gygax including Luke, to some extent (though I have not seen the trust and don't know that first hand).

If the kids of Gary think the trust is not being managed based on the dictates laid down by Gary when he was alive, then the submission of a later will which indicates the wishes of Gary when he was alive concerning the management of his assets after his death can result in a court order forcing the Trustee (Gail) to distribute trust assets differently than she was previously distributing them in her management duties. The will wouldn't be used to override the old will - it would be used as evidence of the decedent's wishes concerning how he wanted his assets distributed under the trust.

This can be done at any time. It's not a challenge to the prior will - it's a challenge to the decisions of the trustee under that old will. It's somewhat similar to bringing a new action concerning an old child support case. You can bring an action concerning a settled probate matter if the action is about management of the estate under that probate. In fact, a lot of probate court cases are concerning old probates.

For example (and this example has nothing to do with this particular matter it's just an example of how this can work years later), if in probate in 2005 it's decided a trustee is supposed to distribute money from a trust to pay for a child's education when they reach age 18 (which is 15 years later in 2020), and then when 15 years comes around the trustee refuses to distribute that money because they don't like the college the child chose to attend, the child brings a new action in probate court concerning the old probate to decide the question of whether the Trustee has acted in the interests of the beneficiaries and the desires of the decedent. That would be a fairly standard probate matter. Probate decisions can be opened many years later if there is a legitimate dispute concerning the decisions of the trustee of a trust.

This isn't a situation where the most recent will was lost or hidden
Actually we don't know that.

The Gygax children deliberately flouted the law when they failed to bring up Gary's most recent will back in 2008.
We have no reason to believe they knew about it in 2008, unless you have information I do not have.
 

JohnRTroy

Adventurer
I'm not going to really profess my opinion on this, or talk about private information, but there are certain facts that can be looked up that I did want to point out to clarify things.

The current "Gygax Trust" was not established upon Gary's death, nor was it apparently an inheritance trust.

Since the founding of Trigee Enterprises, all of Gary's intellectual property was owned by Gail Gygax, NOT by Gary Gygax--Gary was "under contract" to Trigee Enterprises--and about 95% of Gary's output was done as Trigee. It was an arrangement Gary and Gail agreed upon for various reasons. So, basically since 1986 or so, all the stuff Gary worked on post TSR was owned by Gail, not Gary. In short, as far as I know, Gary couldn't even choose to leave any IP assets to his kids unless Gail agreed to it. In this response, I'm going by what I knew of Trigee from Gary himself, and my years working for him, along with things others have learned--there could be some details in the incorporation docs or elsewhere that might clarify things, so I won't say this with 100% certainty.

Trigee Enterprises was I believe then converted into or owned by the Gail C. Gygax Revocable Trust. Note that this is not a family trust, and she is listed as the sole recipient of it--I believe this trust was established years after Gary's passing. Documentation on this can be found at the Trademark Board for the active Gygax trademarks -- all documents say "The Trustees of the GAIL C. GYGAX REVOCABLE TRUST, a Wisconsin trust, the trustees comprising of Gail C. Gygax, a United States Citizen". So the current trust is, as far as I can tell, not something any of the kids are involved in, nor anything that was established as the estate when passing. (Could be wrong but I doubt the Trademark board would word it like that if there were other trustees involved).

In terms of the court, I don't believe Gail ever took her will to probate court. That's probably why there's a dispute now.
 

The whole Gygax inheritance has been a nightmare from the beginning. The biggest issue I've had with it is that since the kids were involved with the D&D IP from the beginning, it would make sense for it to go to them, and I'm kinda sad that Gary didn't make this a well known desire. The fact that Gail had Gygax magazine shut down, despite it being Luke's last name, shows how nasty this has gotten. The new will may be valid or not (good luck legal system), but it shows yet another level of bitter contention in this "family."
 


Mistwell

Legend
I'm not going to really profess my opinion on this, or talk about private information, but there are certain facts that can be looked up that I did want to point out to clarify things.

The current "Gygax Trust" was not established upon Gary's death, nor was it apparently an inheritance trust.

Since the founding of Trigee Enterprises, all of Gary's intellectual property was owned by Gail Gygax, NOT by Gary Gygax--Gary was "under contract" to Trigee Enterprises--and about 95% of Gary's output was done as Trigee. It was an arrangement Gary and Gail agreed upon for various reasons. So, basically since 1986 or so, all the stuff Gary worked on post TSR was owned by Gail, not Gary. In short, as far as I know, Gary couldn't even choose to leave any IP assets to his kids unless Gail agreed to it. In this response, I'm going by what I knew of Trigee from Gary himself, and my years working for him, along with things others have learned--there could be some details in the incorporation docs or elsewhere that might clarify things, so I won't say this with 100% certainty.

Trigee Enterprises was I believe then converted into or owned by the Gail C. Gygax Revocable Trust. Note that this is not a family trust, and she is listed as the sole recipient of it--I believe this trust was established years after Gary's passing. Documentation on this can be found at the Trademark Board for the active Gygax trademarks -- all documents say "The Trustees of the GAIL C. GYGAX REVOCABLE TRUST, a Wisconsin trust, the trustees comprising of Gail C. Gygax, a United States Citizen". So the current trust is, as far as I can tell, not something any of the kids are involved in, nor anything that was established as the estate when passing. (Could be wrong but I doubt the Trademark board would word it like that if there were other trustees involved).

In terms of the court, I don't believe Gail ever took her will to probate court. That's probably why there's a dispute now.
Thank you for those clarifications. I feel like I am looking at a very small part of a large picture and stumbling along trying to piece some information together from too little, and this helps.
 

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