A Hackensack courtroom was the scene of the latest episode in the long running legal battle over the estate of Robert Cohen. Mr. Cohen's granddaughter claims that her uncle James Cohen, the son of the founder of Hudson News, exercised undue influence over her grandfather in the waning years of his life, causing him to change the will in such a way that James seized control of the estate and family business and left her disinherited. She has retained the services of two expert witnesses to help make her case.
One of the most thoughtful acts that an older person in New Jersey can take part in for his or her family is to relieve them of the stress and heartache that comes with having to figure out their dying wishes. Estate planning is not always comfortable for the person doing it, experts say, but that's why it's such a valuable gift to one's family.
An ongoing legal dispute over the estate of famous painter Thomas Kinkade has been settled, putting an end to months of legal challenges. Thomas Kinkade, known for his unique painting style involving generous use of light, died in April, leaving behind an unclear estate plan for his family to deal with. At the time of his death, Kinkade was estranged from his wife of 30 years, and the two were working out a divorce. His live-in girlfriend was brought into the dispute by virtue of two holographic wills Kinkade left behind.
In a previous post, we wrote about the death of Thomas Kinkade earlier this year. As we noted, the 54-year-old painter died of accidental alcohol and Valium overdose, leaving behind over $66 million. Not long after his death, his estranged wife of 30 years and his girlfriend became locked in a battle over Kinkade's estate.
The court appointed public administrator for the deceased copper heiress Huguette Clark is reportedly seeking to have recipients return $37 million in gifts. According to the administrator, Clark's caretakers took advantage of her feebleness and exerted undue influence on her to make the gifts. In addition, the administrator has asked for an investigation into whether a hospital where Clark received care should be required to return a $6 million Manet and whether an art gallery in Washington should be required to return a $250,000 donation.
In our previous post, we began looking at a legal dispute over the estate of deceased actor Gary Coleman. As we noted last time, Coleman's ex-wife and an ex-girlfriend are both laying claim to his estate. The size of Coleman's estate is unknown, though court documents reportedly list a $324,000 house and a pension. Price's attorney has said that the suit is more over future rights to Coleman's name and brand than his current assets.
Because it makes for interesting writing for this blog, we love to see estate disputes make headlines. Well, we don't love it exactly, as much as see it as an opportunity for discussing the important of cleaning up one's estate planning. Because, while few estate plans can be completely insulated from all possible challenges in probate court, it is always worth looking at how to reduce that risk.
One purpose of probate is to ensure that the will according to which property is distributed is valid, that it accurately represents the intentions of the person who left it behind. There is, of course, always the possibility that family may challenge the validity of a will. Typical grounds on which wills are challenged include undue influence, insane delusion and fraud.