What Can We Learn From a Cigarette Baron? Examining Ken Hill’s Last Will and Estate Battles

Introduction: The Legacy of Ken Hill

Ken Hill, the co-founder of Grand River Enterprises (GRE), “the largest private indigenous owned company in the world”, headquartered in Canada, died unexpectedly in January 2021 in Miami, Florida at the age of 62. The burly businessman and lover of expensive cars and boats was not married at the time of his death but was survived by NINE children from at least FIVE women and an angry ex-wife (no wonder he was in Miami LOL).

Estate Overview

  • Value: The estate assets, estimated to be $56M, not including the value of GRE shares.
  • Assets Include: Businesses in the Bahamas, Canada and the US, including restaurants, a spa, golf course, private plan, yacht, at least 20 motorcycles and 10 all-terrain vehicles (again, OF COURSE he was in Miami… totally tracks).
  • Disputes: As you can imagine, the estate is in dispute and questions arise as to the actual value of the estate and one VERY suspicious last will.

The Mysterious Last Will

Wouldn’t you know, after Hill’s death, Hill’s lawyer reached out to his best buddy and business associate, Jerry Montour, to remind him that Hill gave Montour an envelope shortly before his death. Apparently, Hill requested Montour to deliver the envelope (containing the questionable last will) BACK TO HILLS’ LAWYER, should anything happen to Hill (hhhhhmmmmmm). This is according to Montour’s affidavit as to the events. The last will, of course, wasn’t witnessed by anyone and Hill’s signature was alleged to be suspicious.

Lessons From a Surprise Last Will

  • Keeping Original Last Wills: Yes, in 2024 we still need an ORIGINAL last will to submit to the Court when a probate is opened.
  • Traditional Practices: It used to be normal practice for estate planning attorneys to hold on to their clients’ last wills, ensuring that the clients’ heirs will be forced to use their services in the event of an eventual probate.
  • Modern Changes: Increasingly, lawyers are not keepers of their clients’ last wills. Not only is it unethical (in my humble opinion), but It can be a lot more trouble than it’s worth. Once you factor in storage fees, the desire for a paperless office, the fact that folks live a lot longer and move around a lot more, and the liability involved in keeping others’ documents safe FOREVER, it’s not a very attractive option. Also, attorneys would have to hand over their safe deposit files when they plan on retiring (call me!). Finally, now that we can scan in executed copies into our files, there is no need for an attorney to keep an original. After all, there is a way (albeit annoying!) to introduce a copy of a last will should a client misplace or lose their original last will.

Conclusion: The Plausibility of Hill’s Last Will

It sounds like Hill’s attorney gave him his original last will, told him to give it to her personal representative, Montour, with instructions to call the attorney should anything happen to Hill. It sounds plausible….now, will the Judge buy it?

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With over 50 years of combined experience, our probate, estate planning, real estate, elder law and asset protection attorneys provide peace of mind for our clients throughout South Florida.

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