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

atanakar

Hero
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 this. Very informative.
 

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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Bear in mind that we've known for some time that Gary had a more recent will that Gail wasn't honoring. The following excerpt is from that Kotaku article from over a year ago:

In May 2017, DeSanto’s suit reads, he learned that Gary Gygax had a second will. He wrote it shortly before his death. That will, according to the complaint, merely gives Gail a life estate to some of Gary’s IP—the parts his children couldn’t claim. That would mean that, when Gail dies, DeSanto would no longer have the rights to develop Gygax properties, making their contract worthless.

Gail agrees that this will exists, but denies that it is valid. She says it was not signed correctly, adding nobody had ever contacted her about the will’s validity before DeSanto.
 

Which presents a very interesting legal conundrum... if Gail knew it existed, there's potential liability. Fraud, perhaps even theft.

Also, there's the issue of the Copyright Recovery Act. If the boys can show Gary's rights revert to them, they can then proceed under the CRA to secure the items she's got rights to by work for hire clauses unless she's continuing to utilize them for commercial purpose. Much of Gary's older non-TSR work would fall to them, plus a few things TSR claimed but only claimed to shut them down (EG: Dangerous Journeys). And they could claim any unpublished TSR items Gary was working on solo (or, with cooperation of the other parties, his joint efforts. Like Gary's AD&D 2E drafts.)

There are a lot of puzzle peices mixed on the table, and only a few frame bits assembled.

Rampant speculation
I suspect Gail had both wills. ANd the newer one was accidentally provided in the lawsuit discovery phase.
 

Yeah, I was wondering if there'd be any legal action after reading that article when it came out or if the second will would remain just a rumor. That was a pretty big bombshell to drop.

It remains such a shame that Gygax's IP has only dwindled since his death. Castle Zagyg, The Gygaxian Fantasy series, Lejendary Adventures, all out-of-print and inaccessible.

Bear in mind that we've known for some time that Gary had a more recent will that Gail wasn't honoring. The following excerpt is from that Kotaku article from over a year ago:
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Which presents a very interesting legal conundrum... if Gail knew it existed, there's potential liability. Fraud, perhaps even theft.

Onus for presenting a will lies with the person who has possession of it.

Rampant speculation
I suspect Gail had both wills. ANd the newer one was accidentally provided in the lawsuit discovery phase.

Rampant speculation is not appropriate. How about you not badmouth people unless you have evidence, hm?
 


This is in contradiction with the information that @JohnRTroy has given in this thread. Is the will about EGG intellectual property or not? It's confusing.
In the US, generally, people have monolithic wills. All the various properties, real, simple, and intellectual, get disposed of in one document, tho' it's not terribly uncommon to alter it with a codicil rather than a whole new will, if there are only a few significant changes in property.

It's most likely that both wills specify the disposition of the sum of the physical property, the real property interests, and the intellectual property interests (both ownerships and owed royalties), all in a single document. Which is why two competing wills are a litigation issue - they probably both cover the same properties. Especially since there's clear conflict (and strongly apparent malice, even) between the sides.
 

Nikosandros

Golden Procrastinator
My confusion also arose from the fact that, according to the information provided, Gygax's IP was not actually his to dispose of. If it was already owned by Gail before his death, than whatever provisions are either will would be immaterial. Or at least that's what I understood.
 

My confusion also arose from the fact that, according to the information provided, Gygax's IP was not actually his to dispose of. If it was already owned by Gail before his death, than whatever provisions are either will would be immaterial. Or at least that's what I understood.
Since the Copyright Reclamation law 17 USC Sn.203 (which went into effect in 2013).
Any copyright transferred by an author can be reclaimed if it's been 35 years, the transfer was under US law, and the owner is subject to US law. the notice has to be files between 2 and 10 years prior to termination of transfer. So, shortest window is 25 years, longest is 2 prior to longest date allowed, so 40-2= 38 years
Anything between 35 and 40 years old is subject to reversion back to the original owner or their legitimate heirs. It's quite possible that her interests may be time limited... because the boys, if they're deemed the legitimate heirs, can forcibly recover their father's copyrights from her.

Given that the window for filing is 25 to 38 years from transfer... 2020, that's 1982 to 1995 - that would include Dangerous Journeys, Lejendary Adventures, a bunch of editorials, and a few other bits and bobs. D&D is safe... I think there are some novels that aren't. There might

But the need to prove that they're the rightful heirs to use that act.

If they can get the new will validated by the courts, they can zipyank those rights away from her, and each year serve her with notice for the just-hitting-the-window IP.

And that's assuming she had no part in concealing the newer will.

Some info on the law: U.S. Copyright Office - Termination of Transfers and Licenses Under 17 U.S.C. 203
 

JohnRTroy

Adventurer
The biggest problem is that so many people are speculating with little knowledge. All that people (may) know, is that there are two wills in dispute.'
  • Nobody knows what they say (outside of the affected parties, which applies to further "nobodies")
  • Nobody knows the condition either of them are in. Is one notarized and signed by witnesses? Is one not? Under what conditions were they created and filed as?
  • Nobody knows what other laws and rules apply when it comes to Gary's estate, as it is a lot of IP. I mentioned the Trigee item because I think it gets messier if the corporation itself is involved.
  • Nobody really knows fully any of the motivations behind the conflicts. Most people are judging based on limited knowledge, or their own personal projection of what they either think Gary wanted, or what they as fans or consumers might want.
And quite frankly, none of this will really be any of our business. This is a civil matter, and will be decided by a Judge who will have all the facts as presented and make a decision based on that. Neither side aired this stuff publicly, it was just pulled out by folks because every court case has at least a few minimal public records. I'm not sure a civil state case would ever have a transcript available. So, most likely we'll only know the outcome. Somebody will be happy, somebody will be sad. I personally would prefer that we wait and see and give all the Gygaxes some privacy rather than armchair speculate the outcomes--but there is freedom of speech and all that.

Since the Copyright Reclamation law 17 USC Sn.203 (which went into effect in 2013).
Any copyright transferred by an author can be reclaimed if it's been 35 years, the transfer was under US law, and the owner is subject to US law...

A key point missed is the fact that the law states "In the case of any work other than a work made for hire".

  • With Trigee, did Gary work under a "work for hire clause" when creating stuff for that? That would prevent a transfer of copyright under this law.
  • What about D&D items -- there was stuff copyright by his name, but did he transfer that in his agreement with TSR when he left?
  • Complicating those matters involve an agreement Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson made with WoTC around 1999-2000. From what I had read and understood, WoTC wanted to make sure that they wouldn't be able to declare a termination of copyright or something similar (since there was an older law on the books that applied to pre-1976 copyright dates), so I suspect Gary and Dave gave up all future claims of copyright to any of the work they did at any time before their splits with the company. So I doubt things like Dangerous Journeys and stuff from the 1980s would be able to be terminated.
 



That's kind-of my feeling as well. D&D is more popular than ever, and sure, there's a ton of nostalgia for Gygax's old D&D work. But the lack of anything more recent in the public eye for years has meant that it's mostly just old gamers like me that care. New D&D fans maybe might be interested in something like a Castle Greyhawk release if you billed it as the original D&D dungeon and had Wizards of the Coast behind it, but the return on investment for Castle Zagyg or Lejendary Adventures would be significantly less.

I don't think that will ever happen and I think the prime time for Gygax materials has passed. I had high hopes for the C&C Castle but alas that got pulled. :(
 

MGibster

Legend
That's kind-of my feeling as well. D&D is more popular than ever, and sure, there's a ton of nostalgia for Gygax's old D&D work. But the lack of anything more recent in the public eye for years has meant that it's mostly just old gamers like me that care. New D&D fans maybe might be interested in something like a Castle Greyhawk release if you billed it as the original D&D dungeon and had Wizards of the Coast behind it, but the return on investment for Castle Zagyg or Lejendary Adventures would be significantly less.

I have a lot of fond memories of earlier AD&D adventures, but, man, I don't have any interest in playing or running Gygaxian dungeons these days.
 

That's kind-of my feeling as well. D&D is more popular than ever, and sure, there's a ton of nostalgia for Gygax's old D&D work. But the lack of anything more recent in the public eye for years has meant that it's mostly just old gamers like me that care. New D&D fans maybe might be interested in something like a Castle Greyhawk release if you billed it as the original D&D dungeon and had Wizards of the Coast behind it, but the return on investment for Castle Zagyg or Lejendary Adventures would be significantly less.


I part suspect that Castle Greyhawk may be a motivating factor in a lot of this. This needs the IP owned by WoTC to be successful. And the Gygax with the relationship with WotC is not Gail. It's Luke. I suspect DeSantos realised that the only way the IP was to be successful was for it to be in the hands of Luke (and I believe he actually asked Gail to bring Luke on board, but there's way too much bad blood for that to happen).
 

I'm fine with doing so at a con, or for a one-shot. Risking a PC I've spent years playing, not so much. With the right DM, maybe.

I have a lot of fond memories of earlier AD&D adventures, but, man, I don't have any interest in playing or running Gygaxian dungeons these days.

Seems likely. Luke has been the Gygax face for years now.

I part suspect that Castle Greyhawk may be a motivating factor in a lot of this. This needs the IP owned by WoTC to be successful. And the Gygax with the relationship with WotC is not Gail. It's Luke. I suspect DeSantos realised that the only way the IP was to be successful was for it to be in the hands of Luke (and I believe he actually asked Gail to bring Luke on board, but there's way too much bad blood for that to happen).
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Luke Gygax is one of my Facbook friends and he posted this and made it public to be shared.

"Attention Collector’s. Paul Stormberg confirmed that these items are being auctioned by Gail Gygax. That means that these are very likely from my father’s collection. My siblings recently discovered a Last Will and Testament that appears to be valid and witnessed by Gail and Alex Gygax however it was never filed. We have petitioned to have the Will recognized and probate opened. So the property here if part of my fathers estate could be in question. Paul was informed of this months ago and is still auctioning the items. I find that problematic personally whether it is legal or not."

This would seem to answer some of the questions from earlier in the thread.
 

Mistwell

Legend
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.

So apparently the answer is that the will was in fact lost or hidden before being discovered some time in the last 18 months.
 

Mistwell

Legend
Also this from FB from Luke Gygax, "I just got a copy of the Will a few months back and took action to see my fathers will be enacted."
 

MGibster

Legend
So apparently the answer is that the will was in fact lost or hidden before being discovered some time in the last 18 months.

Sure. And apparently two witnesses had reason to believe a will existed but was not filed failed to inform the court within 30 days of the death. It'll be interesting to see how this all pans out.
 

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