Row erupts in the Ledger family over fate of dead actor's millions

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Barely a month after Heath Ledger's funeral, his family have turned on each other in a public row over the film star's will.

Ledger's uncles, Haydn and Mike, attacked his father, Kim, who was the dignified public face of the grieving family after the Australian actor was found dead in his New York apartment in January.

They accused him of mismanaging their grandfather's estate, and said they had warned Ledger's former partner, Michelle Williams, that she may have to fight for a slice of his inheritance.

The dispute erupted after the New York Post revealed that Ledger's three-page will, lodged with a Manhattan court, had been written in 2003, before he met Williams and had a baby, Matilda Rose, with her.

The paper said the 28-year-old star, who died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs, left everything to his parents and sisters.

Yesterday, his father pledged in a statement that Matilda, now two, would not be overlooked. "Matilda is our absolute priority, and Michelle is an integral part of our family," Kim Ledger said. "They will be taken care of, and that's how Heath would want it."

Haydn and Mike Ledger, who are estranged from their brother, claimed that Kim Ledger had mismanaged their grandfather's estate, while in charge in 1994, to the tune of nearly half a million pounds, or A$2m. The bitter dispute ended with all three of them in court.

The size of Ledger's fortune is not clear. The will only detailed his New York assets, which include a Toyota Prius car and $20,000 (£9,900) of furniture.

But he also owned a townhouse in Brooklyn and properties in Australia.

Much of his wealth was in trust funds. The uncles estimate that his total estate is worth A$20m.

They said they had spoken to Williams' parents, advising them to tell her to engage a lawyer. "I'm concerned for Matilda," Haydn Ledger said. "I have concerns about the distribution of funds. We pointed out to Larry [Williams' father] to be on his guard. I had to say this about my brother. I don't care any more."

Kim Ledger said he was distressed by the row. "It is sad, at this extremely difficult time in our lives while we are grieving the loss of our beloved son, that estranged family members publicly discuss matters they have not been privy to in the past or now," he said. "We hope for Matilda's sake they will remain dignified."

On hearing about the will, Williams' father, Larry, said yesterday: "It doesn't make any sense because Heath professed many times his love for Matilda; it makes no sense that he would not leave anything for his daughter."

Ledger's early movies included 10 Things I Hate About You, The Patriot (with Mel Gibson) and A Knight's Tale, but he gained international stardom with his Oscar-nominated performance as a gay cowboy in the film Brokeback Mountain.

Work on his last film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, was suspended after his death, but yesterday director Terry Gilliam announced that three Hollywood stars – Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law – will step in to complete Ledger's unfinished role. The movie is due for release next year.

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