Jerry Lee Lewis estate battle: Feud over late rock legend's Mississippi ranch leaves family in legal limbo
Rock ‘n’ roll icon Jerry Lee Lewis was a pioneer in the music industry and left behind a larger-than-life legacy when he died in 2022 at the age of 87. Also known as "The Killer" for his wild persona, Lewis had an equally unique lifestyle, and at one point in the '70s, he signed over 2/3 ownership rights to his Mississippi ranch to his best friend and tour manager, Cecil Harrelson Sr. The other third was secured by a law firm. Harrelson Sr. died in 2012, and in his final will, he granted his three children proceeds from the sale of the ranch on the condition that the estate can only be sold when Lewis died. The "Great Balls of Fire" singer died in October. A legal battle over the 30-acre property appears to be just beginning, though, as Lewis' son, Jerry "Lee" Lewis III, who currently lives on the ranch with his sons, was served an eviction notice and ordered to leave the estate as the Harrelson family launched plans to sell the Nesbit, Mississippi, land. JERRY LEE LEWIS, ‘GREAT BALLS OF FIRE’ SINGER, DEAD AT 87 "My dad told me a lot of things about what would happen when he passed away," Lee exclusively told Fox News Digital. "I feel like he told me that for dang near my entire life, and I still don't feel like he prepared me for what I'm going through right now." "The people that are coming at me vs. the people he told me would come at me – it's not the same at all. That actually surprises me a lot," he added. JERRY LEE LEWIS' FORMER TEEN BRIDE REFLECTS ON THE STAR'S DEATH, THEIR SHOCKING MARRIAGE: ‘I WAS THE ADULT’ The late country musician lived a controversial life and was married seven times and had six children. At one point, he was married to his cousin, Myra Gale Brown. Cecil also became family when he married Jerry's younger sister, Linda Gail Lewis. Linda and Cecil had three children – Cecil Harrelson Jr., MaryJean Ferguson and Annie Marie Dolan. Shortly after Lewis' death, a website was created featuring pictures of the estate, saying the "Jerry Lee Lewis ranch will be sold" as a "development opportunity or fan's dream home." The listing boasts a "stocked lake, two ponds, outbuildings, a self-contained apartment and swimming pool," in addition to the home of the late pianist. Potential buyers could choose a "hybrid development option" in which the land would be used to build a gated community or holiday resort, billed as a "once in a lifetime opportunity." Lee believed the ranch would be protected and that he would maintain the Lewis family home after his father's death. He was shocked to find out that his cousins felt differently. " From my understanding, the website went up Nov. 25," Lee said. "That's not even a full month after he passed away." JERRY LEE LEWIS AND KEITH WHITLEY INDUCTED INTO THE COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME Lee found out about the website on social media while he was at work and claimed that Harrelson Jr. tried to pull a "fast one" by attempting to kick Lee out of the Lewis family home. "It's not their legacy and history," he said. Lee insisted that Harrelson Jr.'s wishes to turn the ranch into a Jerry Lee Lewis museum and music destination is not how his father would have "wanted things right now." "You'd have to do so much work," he said. "We had it open for tours on more than one occasion. Maybe one day we'll do that again because I know it's something he always enjoyed, having bands around the house. But right now we've got to keep it to be able to protect it." Lee's confusion began when he assumed he was taking over the estate when his father died. In Lewis' final will, he stated Lee should take over the family property, but Lewis had no legal ownership rights to the ranch. "When it comes down to it, my dad wouldn't have willed me my family home thinking that it was not going to be ours. That makes no sense." However, Lee is optimistic about staying in the home with his sons and continuing the legacy that his father worked so hard to build. He's created a crowdfunding campaign in hopes of being able to purchase the property once it goes up for sale. "In further discussions between our attorneys, it seems they've agreed to let us stay until the property is sold," Lee wrote on the campaign. He wrote that his father "hoped that the Ranch would stay in the family despite financial struggles, divorces and tragedies." CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT NEWSLETTER "He enlisted the help of his friend and one-time brother-in-law Cecil Harrelson to do so – opting to put the Ranch in a life estate with the remainder to Uncle Cecil to protect it. Despite accounts to the contrary, my Father never intended the property to be passed on to Cecil and his heirs." Lee emphasized, "Consistent with my father’s wishes, he left the ranch to me in his last will and testament." The Harrelson family contested the campaign in a statement published on their own website, and they have also claimed that a civil lawsuit is in the works. "Lee (and others close to him) chose to misrepresent the facts over and over again," they wrote. "The attempts to disparage our father and to damage the sale of the property by making false statements, and to mislead officers of the court with false information has led to protracted and costly legal processes to take possession. This has led us to seek restitution in the form of a civil lawsuit. ALL parties involved will be named in this action. With overwhelming documentation, we are confident that the case will be decided in our favor." The Harrelsons did not immediately return Fox News Digital's request for comment. Lewis, a three-time Grammy Award winner, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Oct. 16. He had 34 Top 20 country hits between 1968 and 1981, according to the Country Music Association. "He's my dad, and at the core of that, my dad is also Jerry Lee Lewis," Lee said. "It's the wildest thing you could ever think of. You know, when you're a kid, you think, ‘That's just my dad. He's a great musician.' Then you get a little older, and you're like, ‘Well, this guy made an art form and changed the world.’"