T. rex skeleton sparks inheritance dispute after owner’s death

For years, the the massive mostly-intact dinosaur skeleton that came to be known as Sue the T-rex was at the center of a legal battle. The latest dispute involves who inherits what’s left of the money created by the sale of Sue.

Fossil hunters discovered the skeleton in 1990 on property owned by Maurice and Darlene Williams that sits on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. Because of the location on the reservation, the discovery led to years of court battles over ownership rights.

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Eventually, the couple was able to claim the rights, and they made $7.6 million from the auction of Sue — now on display at Chicago’s Field Museum. The museum’s website says that at more than 40 feet long and 13 feet tall at the hip, Sue is the largest Tyrannosaurus rex specimen discovered and the most complete.

Maurice Williams died in 2011. Darlene Williams later moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where she died in December 2020. The couple had four children and three of the siblings are involved in a court dispute over the estate, KELO-TV reported.

At the center of the dispute: Darlene Williams had two wills, according to records filed in Lincoln County, South Dakota. The first one, signed in 2017, included all of her children and grandchildren, and listed daughter Sandra Williams Luther as the person in charge of settling the estate and making sure the will was carried out.

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But a second will dated Nov. 25, 2020 — less than three weeks before Darlene Williams died — designated Luther as the sole heir and executor. The document also cited Darlene Williams as saying that she had lived with her children at odds for too long, and she hoped that in her death they would find peace and become a family again.

Another daughter, Jacqueline Schwartz, questioned whether the second will was legal. She said her mother was critically ill and in hospice care when she signed the document without witnesses in the room due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Schwartz also contested the sale of her mother’s home in Spearfish, South Dakota, two weeks before her death. Court records show that $225,000 in proceeds went to Darlene Williams’ son, Carson Williams.

No trial date has been set.

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