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Sinatra has it his way from beyond the grave

FRANK SINATRA'S will ensures that the battle for his inheritance will be bitterly fought for a long time, but the battle will be conducted in secret.

In an effort to head off arguments he added a condition that anyone who contests the document will be disinherited. So disagreements over the division of the estate, estimated at $200m (pounds 122m), between his widow and children are virtually guaranteed to remain below the surface. But with his records still selling a million a year, lucrative back catalogues and rights to the name and the familiar, the fights are likely to go on for years.

The will, disclosed on Thursday, shows that the bulk of the estate went to his widow and children. His widow, Barbara, inherited all his property, including homes in Beverly Hills, Malibu and Palm Springs. She also got all the silverware, paintings and books, a Mercedes and a Rolls, and 25 per cent of his other personal belongings. The 1991 will guarantees that she will receive at least $ 3.5m.

The children, Francis Junior, Tina and Nancy, each received cash bequests of $200,000, which seems a small amount for a man who was worth millions. But lawyers cautioned that the bulk of his estate had already been put into a trust fund. This would cover the majority of the royalties and much of his investments. Frank Junior was also left his father's sheet music.

There have long been rumours of clashes between family members, and the details of the will stoked further speculation of a row over the division of the estate. But without knowing how much is in the trust, and how it is divided, it is hard to know who ends up with exactly what.

The children are known to have clashed repeatedly with their stepmother, Barbara, whom Frank married in 1976. Tina, the most outspoken of the three, has led them in clashes over the rights to Sinatra's music, and Tina and Barbara also fought over the design of a Frank Sinatra tie, according to the Wall Street Journal. Tina wanted it to figure the younger Frank; Barbara wanted the older, greyer man. Tina won, but the tie didn't do very well anyway. The children control the Reprise Records catalogue, which covers Sinatra's career from 1960 to 1988. But Barbara benefits from the 1993 deal with Capitol Records.

Sinatra's first wife, Nancy, was left $250,000 in cash, and he also left an extra $1m to a trust fund established in 1983 for his grandchildren.