Best known as a Prohibition era lawman who battled against powerful mobsters, Elliot Ness had a second career as the CEO of Diebold. Through a chain of unlikely events, a stock certificate dating back decades was found – but his estate is now battling with Diebold to get the company to pay up.

Believing that a book based on his battles against Al Capone would be unsuccessful, Elliot Ness gave away all rights to his story. Upon his death, Elliot left a meager estate to his heirs – despite a book publication and two movies being made about him during his lifetime.

His wife inherited very little from him.

A recent discovery in Florida could change all of that. At least for his heirs.

The find was at the residence of the former secretary of the famed lawman.

Contained in a box, along with some of his memorabilia, was a stock certificate in Diebold. Thanks to splits and dividends, that stock is now worth $1.1 million.

The current heirs of Elliot Ness are the cousins of his third wife, and they have reopened his estate and filed a lawsuit against Diebold to force the company to pay up.

For its part, Diebold denies having any record that Ness ever owned stock in the company and is fighting the lawsuit.

The Guardian has more on this story in a recent article titled “Heirs of famed Prohibition agent find lost stock certificate that could net $1m.”

The lesson here is that anytime a deceased person’s lost property is found it is necessary to reopen the estate so that the property can be properly distributed.

Whether the heirs will receive the money from the stock, however, is a question that is not likely to be answered for a long while. The parties have been ordered to mediation.

If they are unable to settle the dispute, a trial is scheduled for next year.

When it comes to your own estate planning, an experienced attorney will help you identify your assets so your heirs will not have to scramble later on, especially not generations later on.

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Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.
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