Julie Harris, the 5 time Emmy Award winning actress, died in August.  Her will named a minor soap opera actress, Francesca Rubino, as the co-executor of her estate.  Her will also contained a codicil stating that if her son, who lived on her property and who is to receive the bulk of his estate, threatened to harm the co-executor, he would be disinherited.  The son was unable to see his mother the last 3 years of her life.  Friends of Ms. Harris claim that Ms. Rubino wormed her way into Ms. Harris’ life and fired all of her long time employees including the gardener, housekeeper, and attorney. The new attorney, who presumably would earn $100,000 as co-executor, maintains that they are merely disgruntled former employees.

Several points:

1.  Wills can generally be challenged on the grounds of lack of mental capacity or undue influence.  An indicia of undue influence is where a non-relative receives money to the exclusion of children or one child receives a disproportionate amount.

2.  The son has standing to contest the validity of the will, but if he still receives most of the estate and the only issue is who will serve as executor, he might not be inclined to contest the will and lose money in legal fees.

3.  I have never seen a codicil threatening to disinherit someone, much less a child, for threatening anyone.  Codicils usually change the amounts to be received by a beneficiary.

4.  Who can blame the son for making a threatening gesture to someone described as “very alluring but very manipulative” and “who had a saintly look that was overboard”?