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Probate judge orders Harper Lee's will to be sealed

Following the death of Harper Lee, author of the historic novel "To Kill a Mockingbird," literary fans in California and across the United States of America mourned the loss of the 89-year-old recluse. Although quite famous for her initial novel and the subsequent "Go Set a Watchman," Lee largely spent the remainder of her life outside of the public spotlight. Because of this, a probate judge ruled that Lee's will would remain sealed.

"Mockingbird" was originally published back in 1960, and yet has remained an enduring classic of American literature and is one of the best-selling books of all time. A film adaptation was released in 1962 and is perhaps almost as well loved as the original novel. Despite this recognition, Lee remained outside of fame's spotlight and remained in her childhood town of only 6,300 residents. Even there, she typically kept to herself, although before her sister's death the pair would sometimes visit a local café during quieter hours.

Before her recent death in Feb. 2016, Lee made headlines when "Watchman" was published. Apparently written before "Mockingbird," Lee had chosen to set the novel aside in a safety deposit box, where it was discovered by her lawyer and trustee of her estate. While fans had widely differing opinions on the publication of this novel, Lee still chose to remain outside of the discussion.

Lee's well-known propensity for privacy spurred the filing of a motion to have her will sealed, further protecting the author's privacy. There are any number of reasons that families or estate trustees in California might want to have a will sealed. From protecting an estate's privacy to avoiding public scrutiny, probate judges must weigh the validity of the motion before ruling on the matter.

Source:, "Harper Lee's Will Sealed in Ala. Probate Court", Dan McCue, March 5, 2016

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