SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A legal battle is underway over the estate of the South Dakota couple who earned millions from the sale of Sue the Tyrannosaurus rex.
In 1990, fossil hunters discovered Sue’s massive skeleton on Maurice and Darlene Williams’ property on the Cheyenne River Reservation in central South Dakota. Because of the location, people questioned who owned the rights to Sue, which led to years of court battles. Now, the controversy has shifted to who inherits what is left of the fortune created by the skeleton.
Eventually, the Williams’ were able to claim rights to the find. Then in 1997, Maurice and Darlene Williams made $7.6 million from the auction of Sue, who is still on display at Chicago’s Field Museum. At 47 feet long, Sue is among the largest and best-preserved T. rex skeletons ever discovered.
Over a decade later, in 2011, Maurice Williams died. His wife, Darlene, then moved from their ranch to Spearfish and then later to Sioux Falls, where she died in December 2020.
According to their obituaries, the couple had four children, and according to court records, three of those siblings are now locked in a court battle over Darlene’s estate. According to records filed in Lincoln County, Darlene Williams has two wills.
The original, signed in 2017, includes all of her children and all of her grandchildren with very specific instructions.
She planned to give each of her daughters a diamond ring and each of her grandchildren would receive equal shares of her estate.
It also lists daughter Sandra Williams Luther as the personal representative in charge of settling the estate and making sure the will is carried out.
A second will is dated November 25, 2020, two and a half weeks before Darlene’s death. It designates her daughter Sandra as her sole heir and sole executor.
In the typed document, she asks her children not to fight. She says she’s lived with them at odds for too many years, and maybe with her death, her kids will find peace and make their way back into being a family.
In August 2021, several months after Darlene’s death, a judge appointed her other daughter, Jacqueline Schwartz, as the special administrator of the estate. The court ruled that she continue in that role in February 2022. According to court documents, Schwartz questions whether the second will is legal.
She says her mother was critically ill and in hospice care when she signed the document, and there were no witnesses in the room due to COVID restrictions.
Schwartz is also contesting the sale of their mother’s home in Spearfish two weeks before her death. Schwartz claims that her mother’s signature doesn’t match other documents.
According to court records, $225,000 in proceeds eventually went to Darlene’s son Carson Williams.
The most recent document filed early this year asks permission to bring claims against Sandra Luther, Carson Williams, and possibly Dakota Title on behalf of the estate. It alleges possible misappropriations of funds and fraud.
Nexstar’s KELO reached out to Schwartz and Luther for comment. Schwartz called back and said the case is ongoing. She declined to comment any further.
There is not currently a trial date set.
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