A little bit of friendly rivalry?

April 26, 2023

The topic of sibling rivalry is one of those that never fails to pull interest. In the case of biological siblings, it’s quite unfathomable that individuals born from the same family, same mother, father can suddenly become so distant, estranged and in complete turmoil with each other.  But it happens. And, it’s common. 

With King Charles’s coronation just around the corner and the press interest around the royal siblings we take a look at some of the high-profile and epic sibling rows that have been pasted across the media over the years.  



The Royals

Gosh, never thought we would have to make the decision between team Harry and team William, the brothers always seemed so solid. It was present in footage and interviews that there was always a bit of friendly rivalry between the two, as there always is between an older and younger sibling. 

According to the 2014 biography of Prince Harry by Marcia Moody it was written that Harry didn’t care for being King and would tell his brother so. He realised in not being next in line it gave him the freedom William wouldn’t experience.  

All friendly banter up until Harry met Meghan and the media pounced on a supposed rivalry between her and Kate Middleton. Reported to have caused a considerable amount of turmoil for Meghan, the two announced they would be stepping back from royal duties in 2020 and moved to California.  

The infamous ‘Oprah’ interview caused a bit of a stir for the royals, with William not speaking to his brother because of some of the allegations made against the royal family.  We thought fractures may be on the mend, when H&M were invited to the jubilee celebrations and the the show of solidarity on the walkaround following the death of her majesty. 

However its been pretty turbulent since with Harry and Meghan’s Netflix series, followed by an outpour of of media interviews to promote Harry’s debut book and memoir, Spare. It’s not looking good for any sort of reconciliation at the forthcoming crowning of the King, as news reports circle regarding seating arrangements and the like.



Roll with it?

The Gallagher feud was pretty well documented and never failed to entertain. Bickering brothers (especially when in the same band) is pretty standard, but these two managed to end up in court battling it out.  

The story goes that Liam dropped out of the V festival gig they were headlining back in 2009, with Noel accusing Liam of being hungover, to which he denied it saying he was poorly with laryngitis. Later in 2011 Liam took Noel to High Court, blaming him for the break-up of the band. Since then, they have both gone solo fronting new bands, and are still feuding to this day.  



Your Toxic

Britney has been hitting the headlines for years, but since 2021 its mainly due to breaking from the 13 year conservatorship, which terminated in the November. The conservatorship is the root of the feud with her sister, and to be fair the rest of her family and it continues. 

Jamie Lynn Spears has been reported to say that, she can’t understand why Britney is now putting them in this position and that everything that was done was right for the singer. They have gone public with their rows across social media, with just about the entire online community supporting Britney and elated that she has managed to flee the toxicity of her family. 



Matters of Estate

Unfortunately, when it comes to legacies, sibling feuds can either manifest or intensify if the relationship has already broken. The dispute can also become a lot more in depth adding layers of complexity, drawing on the past, how one child was treated and so on. 

Will disputes between siblings will always be jumped on by the press and sensationalised as a story with conflict is far more dramatic, especially when it comes to disputes between relatives. 



The estate of Martin Luther King

Two of Martin Luther King’s children filed a lawsuit against the third sibling Dexter. Dexter, the estate administrator allegedly refused to provide his siblings with financial records, contracts and other documents relating to the estate. A statement by Dexter at the time, claimed that he was disheartened that his siblings had chosen to do this out of the privacy of the family and within the public domain. The lawsuit claimed that Dexter and the estate had moved a substantial amount of funds and assets for ‘his own benefit’.  

The contention lasted a year and the siblings finally put the rift to bed in 2009, after there was threat of a public trial, revealing personal & financial details about King Inc, the company set up to manage the estate. It concluded that the siblings were deadlocked as shareholders and a temporary custodian would be appointed to manage the affairs and work alongside them.  



Planning is key

Following the death of actor Robin Williams, a legal dispute kicked off over his $100 million fortune. Williams’ will was crystal clear in the fact the estate would be split between the children, with the house left to his wife and on her death to the children.  

Although the will was clear the dispute came about around the assets that were not mentioned in the will, the ones that were in the house Williams shared with his widow and how they should be divided. Such as the division of memorabilia, clothes photographs etc, and a legal battle protruded over it all, between each child and the wife. After a running dispute, the matter was finally settled out of court.  



Did Frank have the right idea?

Frank Sinatra married four times and obviously foresaw the issue his estate could potentially bring about following his death. Forward thinking, he simply added a a provision that should anyone contest his will, they would be automatically disinherited! 

In our experience

Last year Richard Thomas, Partner from IDR Law, pulled together a commentary delving in to his experiences of dealing with biological sibling cases over the years. To work in the field of contentious trusts and probate is to experience a vast array of different relationships and circumstances. No two cases are the same, but there are certain cases which share familiar dynamics and characteristics… read the full piece. 


Check out the rest of the  IDRN for commentaries, factsheets and Q&A written on the topic of sibling rivalry by our team of contentious probate solicitors.