For some time we have been following the bizarre story of Hugette Clark, the reclusive mining heiress who died in 2011 at the age of 104. She had lived for years in Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan, running up hospital bills in the millions even though there was evidently nothing remarkably amiss with her health. During this time, hospital officials ingratiated themselves with her and received gifts in excess of 40 million dollars.
In what would seem to be a textbook case of undue influence, the children of the late Jim Carlen, former coach of the University of South Carolina football team who died at 79 have sued their father’s estate after a 2010 will left everything to his second wife Meredith. The Charlotte Observer emphasizes that "everything" meant just that. Not a nickel to the coach’s children or grandchildren. Not even a photograph or any of his sports memorabilia. They further charge that the latest will was written after their father suffered from "severe Alzheimer’s and dementia" and was contrary to a long established scheme of gifts and prior wills favoring all of his children and grandchildren. Although the estate is purportedly worth ten million dollars, his widow has tried to characterize the estate as being worth considerably less.
Newsday reports today that Leatrice Brewer, a Westbury NY woman found not guilty by reason of insanity of drowning her three children in a bathtub is now seeking part of the $350,000 recovered from Nassau County for the children’s wrongful deaths. The fathers of the children had sued based upon their claims that the Department of Social Services was negligent in not doing more to save the children. Even though New York has a "slayer statute" which prevents a murderer from profiting from the fruits of his or her crime, Peter Kelly, Brewer’s court-appointed attorney has pointed out that unless and until she is disqualified by the Surrogate’s Court, she will be entitled to an intestate share of her children’s wrongful death recovery. A hearing to determine whether or not she can recover will be held on August 15.
It is significant , however, that the State of New York has a 1.2 million dollar lien against Brewer’s possible recovery to defray the costs of her psychiatric treatment. If her recovery is not derailed by the Surrogate, the end result of this is that a substantial amount of the damages paid by one arm of government as compensation to bereaved family members will simply be scooped up by another arm of government to pay the killer’s medical costs.
Earlier, we reported that the daughter of multimillionaire Abe Hirschfeld had accused her brother Ellie of grossly mistreating their father so that he could loot his estate. As reported in today’s Daily News, Rachel Hirschfeld has now leveled serious accusations against the New York County Public Administrator that he had ignored her brother’s allegedly improper actions which she claims has resulted in the loss of more than 300 million dollars to the estate. The matter is now before New York County Surrogate Nora Anderson and your lawblogger regards it as a virtual certainty that more weird details will follow.
Actor James Gandolfini has left an estate of at least seventy million dollars according to the Daily News and other news outlets. While it is likely that Tony Soprano’s estate would have consisted of vast quantities of cash buried in various places about the state of New Jersey, his real life portrayer was a good deal more conscientious in creating what appears to be a complicated and effective estate plan.
This morning, the U;S. Supreme Court issued a major decision in U.S. v Windsor as Executor of the Estate of Spyer which can be read here. In doing so, it has struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) , thereby granting same sex marriages the same rights enjoyed by heterosexual married couples under federal law. The case was brought on by a widow, Edie Windsor who had been required to pay some $383,000 in estate taxes after the death of her wife Thea Spyer., The couple had been legally married in Ontario in 2007 and returned to New York which recognizes same sex marriage. Had they been a heterosexual couple, there would have been no estate tax to pay.
Nobody likes to get a big tax bill from the IRS but imagine getting a bill for almost 2 billion dollars! The Detroit Free Press reports that the estate of the late billionaire William Davidson is going to tax court to contest a 1.9 billion dollar assessment (that’s Billion with a "B"!)
Sibling rivalry takes on a new and unhealthy twist with the New York Post’s recent revelation that the adult children of the late real estate magnate Abe Hirschfeld have been engaged in an unseemly battle in the New York County Surrogate’s Court.
Hirschfeld , long a colorful character one New York’s real estate and political scene died in 2005. Court papers now show that his daughter Rachel has accused his son Elie of forcing Mt. Sinai Hospital to take extraordinary measures to prolong his life in order to save a 300 million dollar real estate deal, even though this was allegedly against medical advice and meant exposing his father to having to suffer through his last days in great pain.
The New York Post has reported today that Justice A. Kirke Bartley has ordered Anthony Marshall to begin serving a prison sentence for looting the estate of his mother, socialite Brooke Astor who died at the age of 105 in 2007. Marshall, who at 89 is likely to be one of the oldest inmates of the New York State Penal system( the oldest is a 94 year old convicted murderer), first received notoriety several years ago when it was revealed that he had kept his elderly mother a virtual prisoner in squalid conditions in her vast estate in Westchester County New York. He was found, together with his attorney Francis X Morrissey to have forged a will in order to plunder his mother’s 185 million dollar estate.
Last year, I reported on the death of Hugette Clark, an eccentric copper mining heiress with an estate of hundreds of millions of dollars who died in May 2011 at 104 and no readily identifiable next of kin. I received inquiries from at least two ambitious folks who wanted to join the "I am Hugette Clark’s next of kin" derby but had no way of proving their claims. Somehow, I think that I am not the only lawyer in this club. Today, theNew York Post has published an update of the Clark estate’s progress (or lack of same) through the New York County Surrogate’s Court.