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Children sue over estate of T-Rex millionaires

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.  — A legal battle is underway over the estate of the South Dakota couple who earned millions from the sale of a famous dinosaur fossil.

Some of the children of Maurice and Darlene Williams (deceased) are suing each other over alleged misappropriations of funds and fraud.

In 1990, fossil hunters discovered a massive T-Rex fossil on Maurice and Darlene Williams’ property on the Cheyenne River Reservation. Because of the location, people questioned who owned the rights to one of most complete fossilized skeletons in the world, named “Sue” by those who discovered the specimen. That led to years of court battles.

Now, the controversy has shifted to who inherits what is left of the fortune created by the fossil.

In 1997, Maurice and Darlene Williams made $7.6 million from the auction of “Sue,” that is still on display at Chicago’s Field Museum. At 47 feet long, “Sue” is among the largest and best-preserved T-Rex fossils ever discovered. Maurice Williams died in 2011. His wife, Darlene died in December 2020.

According to court records, three of four 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 25th, 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 of 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 of 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, S.D., two weeks before her death. Schwartz points out 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 earlier 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.

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