A custody and estate battle has begun over Zoey Michelle Belcher, the infant daughter of deceased Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who murdered the infant's mother, Kasandra Perkins, and then committed suicide back on December 1, 2012. The infant is a mere four months old and is expected to inherit the following from her late father's estate:
- Under the terms of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, Zoey will receive $108,000 annually for the next four years and $48,000 in the fifth year. Thereafter, she will receive $52,000 a year until she reaches the age of 18 and she can continue to receive this amount on an annual basis until she reaches the age of 23 if she attends college.
- The infant may be the beneficiary of a $600,000 life insurance policy provided by the NFL as well as $200,000 for each credited season (Mr. Belcher was in his fourth season at the time of the murders).
- The infant may also be the beneficiary of a $100,000 retirement account.
- The infant is the beneficiary of an irrevocable trust fund set up by the Hunt family, owners of the Kansas City Chiefs, which has received contributions from the Hunts along with various team coaches, players and employees as well as the general public. The current value of the trust fund has not been revealed to the public.
Unfortunately it appears that neither Mr. Belcher nor Ms. Perkins had last will and testaments or other estate planning documents in place at the time of their deaths which named a guardian for young Zoey. This has prompted a custody battle between the maternal and paternal grandparents over who will care for the infant and manage the millions she is set to inherit.
Shortly after the murders Mr. Belcher's mother, Cheryl Shepherd, was granted temporary custody of Zoey by a Jackson County, Missouri court and then proceeded to file a petition to become the infant's permanent guardian. Ms. Shepherd has also requested to become the administrator of her late son's estate. All of this prompted Ms. Perkins parents, Rebecca Anne Gonzalez and Darryl Perkins, who live in the Dallas area, to file a petition to request temporary custody of their granddaughter in a Tarrant County, Texas court.
Meanwhile, the Jackson County court appointed a guardian ad litem, who is an adult charged with looking out for the best interest of the infant, and the two judges presiding over the conflicting cases will have a conference on January 17 to discuss which court should have jurisdiction to proceed.
The estate planning lessons that can be learned from this unfortunate situation are numerous, but the most important one is quite obvious - make sure that if you have minor children you take the time and spend the money to put the legal documents in place that will be required if you die an untimely death, otherwise your children may very well end up in the wrong house with the wrong caretakers.
- Probate: Lawyer to be appointed for Belcher's orphaned daughter
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- How to Choose a Guardian for Your Minor Children
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