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Alleged Lost Will of Mama Cass Leads to Lawsuit

The siblings of the late Cass Elliot, better known as Mama Cass of The Mamas & the Papas, recently brought a lawsuit alleging they had been cheated out of a portion of the singer's estate when she died in 1974.

According to the lawsuit, a California law firm drafted a will for Mama Cass under her given name of Ellen Naomi Cohen in 1967. However, the firm told family members the will could not be found after the singer died. Consequently, Cass was thought to have died intestate and her assets were distributed according to California's intestate law, which resulted in her daughter inheriting the entire estate.

Recently, the surviving sister of Mama Cass discovered information that led her to believe that a will may have existed after all. She reportedly called the law firm that had purportedly drafted the will and an archivist discovered the lost document in a file. Under the terms of 1967 will, Cass' mother, Bess Cohen, was to receive one-third of her estate. Upon Bess Cohen's death, her surviving children, Mama Cass' brother and sister, would have received that portion of the estate.

Interestingly, the estate of Mama Cass, which includes royalties from her music, was insolvent until the 1980's, but has allegedly produced millions of dollars since that time.

The lawsuit alleges that the firm that drafted the will committed fraud and misrepresentation, but the law firm has denied the allegations saying there is no evidence of any wrongdoing and adding that the point may be moot because the plaintiff's claims should be barred by the statute of limitations.

Source: The National Law Journal, Mama Cass' siblings sue over alleged lost will, Leigh Jones 1/7/11

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