When Nelle Harper Lee died last week in Alabama, she left the world with two famous books: "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Go Set a Watchman." Her loved ones will be left with a fortune.
While the value of her estate isn't exactly known, an old lawsuit showed that Lee earned nearly $1.7 million during a six-month period in 2009 — before she announced the release of her second book last year, sales of which were well over $40 million.
The International Business Times says in its recent article, "Did Harper Lee Have a Will? Here's What Could Happen To The 'To Kill A Mockingbird' Author's Money," that Lee never married and had no children. Her parents and siblings died years ago—and those closest to her have been accused of scamming her. So what happens now?
Lee once publicly said she had a will, but only her friends and family know for certain. She most likely didn't die without her affairs in order: her father and sister were both practicing lawyers (and her estate has been involved in several lawsuits). But given her reclusive nature, she may have created a trust rather than a will. Wills become public record when they are submitted to probate court, but trusts are continued by a successor trustee and administered accordingly. Some reports say Lee's lawyer is the trustee to her estate, but she also has a nephew.
If Lee did have a will, it cannot be submitted to probate court until five days after her death, and the statute of limitations expires after five years.
In most instances, when an individual dies, there will be an executor designated in the will who helps move the process along. But at this point, with the author, it's pretty much conjecture and speculation.
One thing is certain, however: The New York Post reported that Lee's estate plan specifically includes a caveat that Hollywood never make another "Mockingbird" motion picture.
Reference: International Business Times (February 19, 2016) "Did Harper Lee Have a Will? Here's What Could Happen To The 'To Kill A Mockingbird' Author's Money"