American Sniper’s Estate in the Crosshairs

Jennifer Walker Estate Law, Estate Planning, West Chester PA Estate Planning, Wills

While alive, Chris Kyle told friends and business associates that he viewed any profits from his memoir American Sniper as “blood money.” The legendary Navy SEAL, whose account of his four tours of duty in Iraq was adapted into the Clint Eastwood movie that is up for six Oscars including best picture, maintained that he wanted the money to go to support struggling military families. Kyle and a friend were shot and killed in 2013 by a veteran Kyle was helping.

Yet today, with more than $6 million banked from the American Sniper franchise (boosted by the sale of more than 2 million books) and millions more on the way as the Warner Bros. film nears $400 million worldwide, a dispute festers over who is entitled to that windfall. At the center of this is Kyle’s widow, Taya, 40, who is alleged to have ignored her late husband’s wishes and withheld money from the bereaved families he publicly had promised to support.

To date, teammate’s families have not filed lawsuits, and none are expected. Legal experts say that because Kyle’s promise was verbal and he died without a will, prevailing in a court case would be unlikely. There is an undisclosed document that made clear her husband’s plan: “Chris Kyle specifically detailed his wishes as to the proceeds of American Sniper in the event of his death,” the language of the court filing reads. “And such wishes are IN FACT being carried out as set forth by Mr. Kyle.”

This legal battle will continue into the foreseeable future for Taya Kyle, especially due to the financial success of the ‘American Sniper’ franchise. Had Chris Kyle left a Will spelling out his exact wishes, all of this could’ve been avoided. No matter your station in life, talk to an experienced estate planning attorney to explore your options. For more information, visit us at www.peaklegalgroup.com or call us at 610-580-4689 to schedule an estate planning consultation.