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The Latest Controversy Surrounding Tiger King Is an Allegedly Forged Will


Tiger King was one of the most popular Netflix series for binge watching during the long weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, but besides cabin fever, people’s motivations for watching it were various.  From an estate planning perspective, the most interesting thing about the stranger than fiction story of Joe Exotic is not the tragic fate of the tigers Samson, Delilah, Trinity, Lauren, and Cuddles; it was the fate of Don Lewis, the husband of Joe Exotic’s arch-nemesis Carole Baskin.  Specifically, it was the fate of his will, which left all of his assets to his wife, to the exclusion of his children from his first marriage.  New evidence suggests that the will Baskin presented for probate was a forgery.  While the events of Tiger King are among the strangest ever seen in a documentary series, disputes over the authenticity of wills are nothing out of the ordinary.  If you suspect that the will that the court is using as a guide for the probate of your deceased relative’s estate is a fake, contact a Florida probate lawyer.

Challenging a Will During Probate

Most estates are able to finish probate in less than a year, without any disputes arising.  An important early stage of probate involves presenting the will to the court.  During the probate process, anyone who has reason to believe that the will is not authentic or that it was written and signed under undue influence has a chance to do so.  Allegations of undue influence often arise when the decedent was in poor health for a long time and the family members to whom the will leaves the lion’s share of the estate isolated the decedent from the rest of the family during his or her final illness.

A Mysterious Death and an Equally Mysterious Will

As fans of the show Tiger King will know, Carole Baskin and Don Lewis divorced their respective spouses in order to marry each other in the early 1990s.  Together, they opened an animal sanctuary in Hillsborough County; its original name was Wildlife on Easy Street, and it housed lions, tigers, leopards, bobcats, and other members of the feline family.  Lewis disappeared in 1997, and although his body has never been found, he was declared legally dead in 2002.  Baskin presented his will to the court for probate, and when the process concluded, she inherited his entire estate.  The estate was worth $10 million, and Lewis’ children and siblings inherited none of it.  In 2020, in response to the attention given to Lewis’ mysterious disappearance after the public learned of the story through Tiger King, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister decided to have two experts examine the will.  Both experts determined that the signature on the will was a forgery, but because so much time had passed since the estate settled, the court would not reopen the estate.

Contact an Attorney Today for Help

Just because your stepmother isn’t a reality TV villain, it doesn’t mean that your suspicions about your dad’s will are unfounded.  The time to speak up about your belief that the will was forged or signed under duress is now.  Contact Clearwater probate lawyer William Rambaum for help today.




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