What's The Elusive Will That Left Florence Griffith Joyner's Estate in Limbo?
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What's The Elusive Will That Left Florence Griffith Joyner's Estate in Limbo?

What happened to Florence Griffith Joyner's Estate? How do I avoid my Will getting lost? This article discusses FloJo's missing Will and how a missing or non-existent Will can cause issues during the probate process. Keep reading to learn more.

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In the world of sports, few athletes captured the imagination like Florence Griffith Joyner, known affectionately as FloJo. Her record-breaking speed, flamboyant style, and radiant personality made her an icon in the track and field community. However, beyond her athletic achievements, an intriguing mystery lingers around her Last Will and Testament. Let’s take a look at the perplexing tale of FloJo's missing Will and talk about how you can avoid making a common and avoidable mistake: hiding your Will where no one can find it! Here’s one time you don’t want to be like a celebrity. 

The Legendary FloJo

Florence Griffith Joyner burst onto the scene during the 1988 Seoul Olympics, captivating the world with her electrifying performances. She shattered records and achieved unprecedented success, winning three gold medals and setting world records in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints. FloJo’s style also turned heads, as she competed wearing her famous bodysuit and six-inch nails.  Her bold fashion choices and vibrant personality made her a pop culture icon and one of the first athletes who crossed over into the world of fashion. Just one year after winning the gold medals, FloJo retired from track and field. Everyone assumed she would have a long career filled with endorsements, fashion design and even acting. But tragically, FloJo died of an epileptic seizure in her sleep in 1998.  She was just 38 years old. 

The Estate in Question

Griffith married 1984 Olympic triple-jump champion Al Joyner in 1987. Joyner’s sister was the legendary track and field athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee. FloJo and Joyner had a daughter who was born in 1990. FloJo had provided for her family by drafting a Will that was legally binding in California where the family lived. Her estate was valued at around $3 million, including various assets, including real estate properties, investments, and licensing rights to her image and likeness. If she had lived, she would most certainly have continued to achieve endorsement deals, and her image and likeness would have increased in value.

The Elusive Will

FloJo's passing was a complete shock that left fans, friends, and family wondering what happened. This was made more shocking by the absence of the Will. She had a will, yet nobody could actually find the document. Under California law, a Will must be filed with the probate court within 30 days of a person’s death. Al Joyner couldn’t figure out where his wife had kept the Will. If Joyner had located the Will, probate would have been smooth, and all disputes would’ve been resolved relatively quickly. However, since he couldn’t find it within the 30-day limit, the probate court ruled that she died intestate. This triggered a complex legal battle between her husband and mother, who both believed they had claims to her estate.

Flojo's surviving family members, including her husband Joyner, and her mother, Florence Griffith, found themselves embroiled in a heated dispute over the division of her assets. Joyner owned the Rancho  Santa Margarita house where Florence's mother had lived for eight years. Florence believed that she was legally entitled to live in the home for the rest of her life, but Joyner intended to evict his mother-in-law. Joyner argued that this was about restructuring the family debt to provide for his daughter. 

Florence alleged that Al had a part in her daughter's death, even though she died from medical complications that were well-known to Florence and her family. But Florence even sued her son-in-law for wrongful death, a case she eventually lost.  The bad blood between Al and Florence was so serious that they waged a years-long war over who was entitled to set up a charitable organization on FloJo’s behalf. 

The probate court was forced to appoint a third party to oversee the distribution of her estate. None of this would have happened if only they had FloJo’s Will, which would have appointed an Executor to handle the distribution of her assets. The lack of a will meant that the decision regarding the distribution of her estate fell into the hands of the court, leading to a prolonged legal process and increasing tension within the family.

A Bittersweet Resolution

After several years of legal battles and uncertainty, a resolution finally emerged in 2003. The court reached a settlement that divided Flojo's estate among her husband, Al Joyner, and her mother. While the details of the settlement were not made public, it brought an end to the contentious dispute. Obviously, both parties wound up spending lots of money on legal and administrative fees, further diminishing the estate’s value.

Lessons from FloJo’s Missing Will

Probate, the legal process that oversees the administration of an estate, became a central issue in Flojo's case. The absence of a will only prolonged the probate proceedings, which typically involve extensive documentation, asset valuation, and distribution among heirs. The court's involvement added to the delays and frustrations faced by all parties involved.

This situation is the perfect example of the costs of dying without a Will. If you don’t have a Will or your Will can’t be located, you will be deemed to have died intestate. When that happens, your estate must go through a prolonged probate process. The court will appoint an Executor. Assets will be distributed according to state law rather than in accordance with your wishes. Your heirs will not have access to their inheritance for months and possibly years. 

On the other hand, when you have a Will, the probate process will go much faster. You will have the assurance of your Executor that all of your wishes will be honored. With a Will, no one will be able to second-guess your intentions, particularly if you use a service like FastWill to create documents that meet all the requirements of state law. 

FloJo's missing Will sparked widespread speculation and theories among both the media and the public. This is certainly not what FloJo would have wanted. People who aren’t famous should also try to avoid creating drama and mysteries after their death. This only leads to bad blood between family members, as the FloJo case illustrates. In her case, the lack of concrete information surrounding the circumstances only fueled rumors. 

There are two ways you can avoid her fate: First, make an online Will with Fast Will. Second, make sure your Will is stored somewhere that someone can actually find it. Leave instructions with your Executor or with a trusted advisor, like an accountant or lawyer, letting them know where your important papers are stored.

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