Court Honors Man's Wish to Cut Family Out of Will

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A retired Las Vegas police officer who died in 2008 is getting his final wish to keep his $3 million estate out of his family's hands.

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled 7-0 this week to recognize a handwritten note William Melton wrote in 1995, telling his girlfriend that his relatives shouldn't get a penny of inheritance.

The decision overturns a previous ruling by Clark County District Judge that granted the estate to his daughter, Vicki Palm. The case went to the high court when Melton's two half-sisters - who also sought the money - appealed.

Melton had written a formal will in 1975 that excluded his daughter while leaving most of his estate to his parents and smaller portions to other relatives.

His father died, and he wrote a note on motel stationery as he came home from his mother's 1995 funeral, saying his girlfriend Alberta "Susie" Kelleher should get everything.

But Kelleher died before him in 2002, and when Melton died, Palm
and the two half-sisters requested the money.

Justices, in an opinion issued Thursday, wrote that wills written by hand, signed and dated have the same effect as formal wills. They added that Nevada law doesn't favor sending inheritance money back to state coffers, but also seeks to honor the wishes of the deceased.

Attorney Whitney Warwick, who represents Palm, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the ruling was difficult for his client. He said Melton and Palm's mother had divorced when Palm was young, and the mother and daughter stayed in the Midwest. Warwick said Palm occasionally visited her father in Las Vegas.

Melton's money, which came mostly from real estate investments, now goes to fund public education.

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