B.B. King's Family Loses Bid for Control of His Affairs
The 89-year-old blues legend suffers from diabetes and is in home hospice care.
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Noted blues man B.B. King — his health failing at age 89 — is in the middle of tug of war between some of children and his longtime manager.
Three of King's 11 surviving children in a bid to take control over their father's affairs said they suspect the blues legend's manager of stealing his money and neglecting his medical care while blocking them from seeing him in home hospice care.
But a judge in Las Vegas tossed the dispute out of court Thursday, saying two investigations found no evidence King was being abused and that King's longtime business manager, Laverne Toney, should remain in legal control of his affairs.
Toney and King's lead attorney, Brent Bryson, deny the allegations by three of King's children, Karen Williams, Rita Washington and Patty King. They say the children can schedule visits just like they always have been able to do.
King's personal lawyer, Arthur Williams Jr., and his physician, Dr. Darin Brimhall, said outside the Clark County Family Court hearing that they saw no neglect or abuse.
King, who suffers from diabetes, did not attend.
Family Court Hearing Master Jon Norheim said police and social services investigations in October and April uncovered no reason to take power of attorney from Toney.
"There is no evidence of need for guardianship," Norheim said. "Mr. King has counsel. I don't have anything here that says he lacks capacity. He has some serious health issues. But he has counsel. If he feels like he's being taken advantage of, he has remedies."
Norheim said he could not consider daughter Karen Williams' petition to take over as King's guardian until all of King's children and grandchildren get legal notice.
Williams and a family-nominated guardian, Fredrick Waid, want to wrest power of attorney from Toney.
They said in an April 29 petition seeking appointment as temporary co-guardians that more than $5 million in assets was at stake.
Bryson said he couldn't comment on King's estate, which is also expected to include intellectual property rights and royalties.
The petition alleges Toney blocks King's friends — including musicians Willie Nelson, Buddy Guy, Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton — from visiting him.
They also say Toney put her family members on the King payroll, and that large amounts of money have disappeared from King's bank accounts.
"The family has been unable to account for what is reported to be in excess of $1 million," the court document says.
The judge's ruling doesn't prevent King's children from returning to court to press their claim once all family members have been legally informed of the action.
"We lost the battle, but we haven't lost the war," Karen Williams vowed.
King was hospitalized a week ago after police were called to his home in a dispute about his condition between Toney and King's daughter, Patty King. No one was arrested and King returned home to hospice care shortly afterward.
King, born Riley B. King in the Mississippi farm town of Itta Bena, toured and performed almost continually until October, when he canceled the remaining shows in his 2014 tour after falling ill in Chicago with dehydration and exhaustion.
Las Vegas police were called to King's home in November on allegations of elder neglect and abuse. Officer Jesse Roybal said that case remains open, and no details were available.
King is a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and a 15-time Grammy winner. He has released more than 50 albums and sold millions of records. He is considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time.
His guitar, famously named Lucille, has soared and wailed in songs ranging from "Every Day I Have the Blues" to "The Thrill is Gone."
King was married several times and had 15 biological and adoptive children. Four have died.
His eldest surviving daughter, Shirley King, who tours as "Daughter of the Blues," said the dispute between family members and Toney has brought disrespect to her father's name and memory.
"I'm not too sure things are right. But my dad would never want this," Shirley King said by telephone from her Chicago-area home.