in , ,

Jerry Lee Lewis’ Son Tangled in Legal Battles After His Death

Jerry Lee Lewis was a complicated man. One on hand, he was a pioneer in the emergence of rock and roll music, not to mention an incredibly talented piano player, performer, and overall musician. But on the other hand he was a controversial figure who had a scandalous personal life, run-ins with the IRS, and lawsuits against his own children. After Lewis’s passing in October of 2022, there has been continued contention involving his estate. Join Facts Verse, as we present: Jerry Lee Lewis’ Son Is Tangled in Legal Battles After His Death.

Jerry Lee Lewis died late in 2022, leaving behind a music legacy that will live on long after his death. But other things he left behind include his estate, which includes his former residence, where he ultimately died. And there are a number of interested parties who all believe they have a legit claim to the property. These include Jerry’s son, his former best friend/tour manager, and an unaffiliated law firm. It’s a complex and ethically tricky situation that will likely be decided by the courts. But until that point, it’s a story full of odd claims and serious contention, as well as one that’s a sad ending to the life and legacy of a cherished musician.

The Lewis Ranch

The property in question is the Jerry Lee Lewis Ranch. Located in Nesbit, Mississippi, not far from Memphis, it’s the large home where Jerry lived out his final days. The house itself is huge, measure around 4,500 square feet, and boasting six bedrooms. It sits on a property measuring about 30 acres that not only includes the main house, but several other impressive amenities. Those include lakes and ponds, one of which is stocked with fish, a separate apartment, and a swimming pool. True to form, the swimming pool is shaped like a giant grand piano.

And the property is more than simply Lewis’ former home. Over the years, it welcomed fans of Lewis with tours, where sometimes people would even meet the music legend himself. It was slowly becoming somewhat of an equivalent to Elvis’s Graceland.

Jerry’s Son

Jerry Lee Lewis and his wife Judith weren’t the only people living on the property before Jerry died. His son, Jerry Lee Lewis III, who goes by “Lee” was also living there with two of his own sons. And the expectation was that they’d be able to continue living there after Jerry’s death. That’s because both in his will, and in conversations with Lee, Jerry had made it clear that he wanted him to inherit the ranch. In most cases, this would be fairly cut and dry. While conversations about it wouldn’t necessarily hold up in court, certainly a direct statement made in a will would. But in the case of Jerry Lee Lewis, as was often the case, it’s more complicated than that.

Jerry’s Trouble with the IRS

Jerry was well known for having battles with the IRS over his taxes, his earnings, and more. The IRS at one point seized a bunch of his cars, bikes, instruments, firearms and more because of a nearly $300K tax bill he owed. That was in 1979, and wasn’t his last issue with the IRS. In 1984, they came knocking again, seizing more of his possessions. Though it should be noted that he was eventually found innocent of tax evasion charges.

He had more issues with his taxes and the IRS in 1988 as well in 1993. In ‘93 he decided to move to Ireland to escape the IRS, but was able to return four years later after coming to an agreement with them. But a big part of why he felt safe to come home was that he figured out a workaround that would keep the IRS from ever being able to seize his ranch. Namely, he decided to put it in someone else’s name for safekeeping. That way, if he ever owed serious money to the IRS again, they wouldn’t be able to take his property, since it didn’t technically belong to him anymore.

Cecil Harrison

Jerry put the property in Cecil Harrison’s name. Cecil was, at that point, Jerry’s lifelong friend and tour manager. He’s rumored to even have paid for Jerry’s early recording studio time, and things like that. So he and Jerry were incredibly close. This led to Jerry’s decision to have Cecil take over the ranch, but Jerry and his family would still live there. It’s unclear whether it was made explicit to Cecil that the ranch would revert back to Jerry’s biological family after his death. But at least according to Jerry’s wife, son, and will, that’s what he wished. However, Cecil’s heirs were led to believe otherwise. Harrison died in 2012, and HIS will had a provision saying that his own children would inherit the Lewis property, but that they couldn’t sell it until after Jerry had died. So when Jerry died in late 2022, the Harrison children, namely his son Cecil Harrison Jr. set about starting the process to potentially sell it.

The Dispute

This, of course, came as a shock to Jerry’s son Lee. He and his sons were still living on the property when, a month after Jerry’s death, they received an eviction notice. Lee then discovered a website promoting the upcoming sale of the property. Lee’s impression was that since his father explicitly left the property to him, the Harrison family was in no position to sell it. However, in a legal sense, since Jerry had turned the property over to Cecil back in the day, Lee doesn’t technically own the property, despite what his dad’s will says. In other words, Jerry couldn’t have given Lee a property that he didn’t own anymore.

However, the main dispute isn’t whether or not Jerry put the ranch in Harrison’s name. That’s a clear cut and documented transaction. The bigger question is why.

According to Cecil Jr., his dad never even wanted the property to be put in his name. But he and others in his family have claimed that Jerry gave it to Cecil Sr. as a way to make up for unpaid wages from decades of work together. Cecil’s daughter Mary-Jean was interviewed about it in 2015, and talked about how the lawyers who got involved after Cecil’s 2012 death didn’t understand “the agreement my dad and Jerry had over the property.” So clearly the Harrison clan is under the impression that the property was gifted to Harrison as a permanent transfer.

However, Lee and Judith see things quite differently. They claim that Jerry simply put the ranch in Cecil’s name to avoid having it seized by the IRS, and that his intent was for it to always remain in their family. They point out that if his whole point was to ensure the IRS didn’t take it from his family, he certainly didn’t want any other entity, even a close friend, to take it either. The Lewis estate put out a statement that said that anyone who actually knew Jerry was fully aware of his intention to keep the ranch forever in their family. They said that everyone involved acknowledges that Jerry put the ranch in a trust in Harrison’s name to avoid it being taken in circumstances like divorce or the IRS seizing it. But, the statement points out, those things are moot now that Jerry is dead. So the property should revert to his originally intended wishes.

More Complications

But of course, it’s more complex than that. If there was documented proof that Jerry was only treating the action of putting it in Harrison’s name, but that he wanted it to revert back to his family upon his death, that might help Lee and Judith’s case. But that doesn’t appear to exist. The only documentation available clearly states that the property went to Harrison in the late 1990’s. Of course, the fact that Jerry’s official will states that he wanted the property to go to his own son would appear to suggest that that was his intent all along. But it’s a sticky situation, legally. It gets even more complicated by the fact that there’s a third party – a law firm- that actually owns a third of the property. The firm of Barnes, Jones, & Warren received that portion of the property because of an issue that arose years ago, when Cecil Harrison was still alive. It appears that a girlfriend of Lewis’s at the time, tried to forge a document that showed Harrison was giving up his share of the property. According to Cecil Jr., his dad decided not to press charges against her, knowing that it would also have legal ramifications for Jerry as well. Instead, Cecil gave a third of the property to the law firm, so they could reverse the girlfriend’s action in court. That way Cecil could nullify her forged document without having to press charges.

Will It Be Sold?

Things are a bit in limbo at the moment, as legal proceedings move forward. It’s clear that Lee and his family don’t want the ranch to be sold, and want to continue living there. The Harrison family, and potentially the law firm too, are exploring the options for selling it. There’s a decent chance it is sold off to a third party and turned into a place honoring Jerry Lee Lewis that would generate a profit for the new owners. That would mean truning it into even more of a Graceland-style park. But only time (and the courts) will tell what will happen with the Lewis ranch.

Now it’s time to hear from you. Are you a fan of Jerry Lee Lewis’s music? And who do you think should legally own the Lewis ranch, given the complexities of the legal drama that’s unfolding? Let us know in the comment section below!

Tempting Photos of Madeline Smith Leave Nothing to the Imagination

The Controversial Episode That Took Married With Children off the Air