Family battles with megachurch over late bishop's estate

DETROIT (AP) — The family of a late Pentecostal bishop from Detroit says a national megachurch he built is preventing them from inheriting what they believe is as much as $10 million.

Bishop William Bonner died in April at age 93. His two adult grandchildren say his family is being shut out of its inheritance and that officials with the Harlem, New York-based Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ are hiding money and property records, The Detroit News reported.

“He warned people about it,” said Lansing resident Grace Bonner, one of William Bonner’s granddaughters.

Grace Bonner has asked the Wayne County Probate Court to intervene in the matter. A hearing was scheduled for Wednesday.

William Bonner’s family is fighting for the right to sell his property, while church officials say any sales should benefit the church. Attorneys for William Bonner’s estate, which is overseen by a church bishop, deny its value is what his family says it is.

Attorney Anthony Adams said William Bonner’s family “made allegations that the bishop was worth millions of dollars and had a personal jet.” Adams said the family’s complaints are “frivolous” and “turned out to be baseless.” Attorney Les Braverman said the family isn’t “supporting their pleadings with any factual statements.”

Survivors of William Bonner want the church to opens its books on his financial affairs and give them more details about his will detailing cash and property that they say they should inherit. Lawyers for his estate say the family should take questions to church leaders, which William Bonner’s granddaughters say they’ve done without success.

Grace Bonner said it’s suspicious that her grandfather’s will was changed 11 months before his death.

“We’ve been trying to contest the will since he died,” Grace Bonner said. “They have hidden a lot of things from us.”

The Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ expanded to numerous cities around the United States and the world under William Bonner’s leadership, according to church leaders.


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