'Strikingly Opaque' Harper Lee Will Unsealed

It's not clear how estate has been divided up
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2018 5:22 AM CST
'Strikingly Opaque' Harper Lee Will Unsealed
In this Aug. 20, 2007photo, author Harper Lee smiles during a ceremony honoring the four new members of the Alabama Academy of Honor at the Capitol in Montgomery, Ala.   (AP Photo/Rob Carr, File)

Harper Lee's will was unsealed Tuesday in response to a lawsuit filed by the New York Times—but anybody hoping the document would answer some of the mysteries surrounding the author would have been extremely disappointed. The will, described by the Times as "strikingly opaque," does not say where her literary papers will go, or give any clues to why she decided to release a second novel 55 years after To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee died two years ago at the age of 89. The will was signed just eight days before her death. It lists a niece and three nephews as her closest living relatives and transfers most of her assets—including the copyright to Mockingbird, worth around $3 million a year—into a trust, the details of which have remained private.

"It is not an uncommon will, and it is typically what we term a pour-over will where anything in the estate goes over to the trust and they don't have to disclose the terms of the trust," estates lawyer Sidney C. Summey tells the Times. "It is done quite often by people of means, people with notoriety, and people who just want to be private." AL.com notes that Lee, one of Alabama's most beloved writers, was known for keeping her private life private. Lee's controversial longtime lawyer, Tonja B. Carter, is named as the executor of the will, and has power over Lee's literary properties. Carter uncovered Mockingbird sequel Go Set a Watchman in 2011 and hinted that there could be a third book. (In 2015, she said Lee was "humiliated" by speculation that she was being taken advantage of.)

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