Theft of Babe Ruth’s Will Highlights Public Court Process for Probated Estates in New York

It’s a fascinating story if you are a baseball fan or if you spend your career assisting clients with Wills and Estate Planning in New York. It’s also a cautionary tale for those who are concerned that their private affairs will become public through the probate court process after their death.

The Boston Herald reports that police are searching for a stolen Will that was signed by an old-time Boston Hall of Fame ball player; the investigation is part of a wider probe into black market memorabilia trafficking.
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Police are trying to broker a deal with a Virginia baseball collector for the return of a Will signed by George Wright, a Hall of Famer from the 1870s who won six titles with the Red Stockings during baseball’s infancy. The document was among a batch of historic papers swiped from the Suffolk Probate Court in the late 1990s.

“I’d rather get it back in Probate Court where it belongs,” said Boston Detective Steven Blair. “If (the collector) doesn’t agree to give it back, we’ll pursue it criminally.”

While most of us will not have our Wills sought after as collector’s items, subjecting your estate to the probate court process in New York does mean your private affairs will be open to the public. This includes relatives interested in what others are receiving, nosy neighbors, and just about anyone else who takes an interest. Creating a living trust is one way to bypass the probate court process and there are a number of other options you can discuss with a New York City estate lawyer.

In this case, Wright’s signature had been cut out of the document and was up for sale for $6,500. Blair previously worked on a case involving the theft of dozen’s of ball players’ Wills and said investigators are still trying to recover documents from that heist.

The quest to recover Wright’s will is part of a larger probe being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into the theft of rare papers and photographs from libraries and courts in New York and Boston, including the theft of Babe Ruth’s 1948 Will. That Will recently turned up on an auction site for $95,000.


New York City Probate Attorney Jules Martin Haas handles all types of probate cases, including Wills, estate planning, estate settlement, advanced directives and guardianship matters. Please call me at (212) 355-2575 for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

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