Whenever an estate battle includes a non-family member, things can get rough. When millions are at stake, you can expect the battle to be as mega as the megachurch in this case.
Family members are fighting to lift a shroud of secrecy following the death of a successful bishop who built a real estate empire and a megachurch. As reported in The Detroit News in "Family battles over megachurch founder's estate," the estate of a Pentecostal bishop from Detroit could be valued at up to $10 million. The bishop's heirs want their inheritance, and the church is pushing back.
Bishop William Bonner's two adult grandchildren say his survivors are being shut out of their inheritance, and they believe officials with a Harlem church are hiding money and records about property that belongs to the family.
Bonner died in April at age 93, after suffering from dementia and complications from a stroke. He founded Solomon's Temple in 1944, which has grown into a 2,500-seat sanctuary. His real estate empire includes as many as 30 homes and other properties in several states, his family says. His survivors want the church to open its books on his financial affairs to give them more information about the bishop's Will detailing property and cash that they claim should be part of their inheritance.
The family, which has no part in church business, is fighting for the right to sell the late minister's property, while church officials argue any sale proceeds belong to the church.
Grace Bonner said her grandfather's Will was changed less than a year before he died, which she said is suspicious. Family members have filed the lawsuit to force church leaders to answer questions about what has happened to their grandfather's estate.
A widower, Bonner was survived by his son, William Lee Bonner Jr., and his granddaughters.
The pastor of Solomon's Temple until 2013, Bishop David Maxwell, reportedly said that Bishop Bonner's health began to deteriorate in 2008 and his health and mental abilities became worse a few years later. In a legal deposition, Maxwell told the court that he called Bonner's son and asked him to become involved with his father's affairs. In January 2014, his son sent a letter to the church expressing concerns about his father's mental health.
Reference: The Detroit News (January 27, 2016) "Family battles over megachurch founder's estate"