Sons File Lawsuit Over Actor-Politician Fred Thompson's Estate

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A lawsuit filed by former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson's two adult sons raises new questions about the days leading up to his death.

That lawsuit questions changes made to their father's estate -- changes after he was no longer able to make decisions for himself.

Fred Thompson lived a life in the spotlight, in film and television, later using that folksy image to launch a career in the Senate.

In 2008, he made an unsuccessful run for president.

At the time, his net worth was estimated at up to $8 million.

Now, Thompson's death last fall has put the handling of his estate in the spotlight.

On one side: Jeri Thompson, the former senator's younger second wife and mother of their two children.

On the other: two adult sons -- Tony and Dan Thompson -- from Thompson's first marriage.

Their lawsuit claims the widow and her lawyers have refused to explain a flurry of changes to Thompson's estate in the days leading up to this death.

"Not having been involved, I don't know why they would have declined to furnish that information," said veteran Nashville lawyer Gary Blackburn, who reviewed the court filings at the request of NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

Blackburn said Thompson's family may be like a lot of other families in such situations where personal animosity often gets in the way of good judgment.

"If there is really nothing to be concerned about, of course, the questions arises why wouldn't you just explain it?" Blackburn said.

"This was their father. Why wouldn't you just explain it?"

Jeri Thompson issued a statement through a PR agency.

“There is no merit whatsoever to Dan and Tony Thompson’s claims, as they well know," the statement said. "We will respond in the appropriate forum.”

Fred and Jeri Thompson were married for 14 years.

A lot of the suspicion appears to stem from a legal bill filed in court against the estate, in which a prominent Nashville law firm racked up more than $40,000 in legal fees, making changes to Thompson's estate -- much of it while he was on his death bed.

Blackburn reviewed the bill.

"What these lawyers were doing, and these are capable lawyers, is they are saying: we've been asked to rearrange the assets of this estate and to change who gets what," he explained.

The bill shows that the lawyers initially had some contact with Fred Thompson, but they quickly began dealing almost exclusively with his wife, Jeri Thompson.

"Based upon these entries, she is the one with whom they are consulting," Blackburn said. "It appears that she is looked at as the client."

One critical entry shows the lawyers preparing a "notice of incompetency" and researching the "use of power of attorney to create [a] trust and to change beneficiaries of policies."

 

Blackburn noted, "There is this flurry of activity having to do with certifying his incompetence, having medical proof that at that point in fact he was unable to handle his own affairs."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Does that raise red flags?"

"Well," the Nashville attorney responded, "it raises red flags if you're the party who's lost money in the transactions that are being discussed."

Blackburn said the critical question is: Was Thompson -- a man with a powerful presence in life -- able to see his own wishes fulfilled in death?

The lawsuit, filed by the two adult sons, says their father wasn't competent to make any changes to his estate and that his widow did not have that right either.

They're asking a judge to either remove her as executor of the estate or force her to show them what changes she made -- and why.

View the lawsuit filed by Fred Thompson's adult sons

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