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Melvin and Howard

Melvin Dummar died this week. He was famous for having been named as a 1/16th beneficiary of Howard Hughes’ unwitnessed handwritten will which was known as “The Mormon Will.

Dummar allegedly found a disheveled Hughes near a Nevada brothel and gave him a ride to The Sands hotel in 1967. After Hughes’ death in 1976, an unknown man delivered a letter to Dummar, who was then living in Utah, for forwarding to the Church of Latter Day Saints. Before delivering it, Dummars steamed it open and saw that he and the Mormon Church were listed as beneficiaries of the will. Hughes was not a Mormon, but Dummars was. The will was one of 40 wills purportedly made by Hughes none of which were deemed to be valid.

A valid will for Hughes was never found resulting in his fortune benefitting distant cousins and other relatives. Hughes reportedly did not want his relatives to benefit from his fortune. Dummar’s alleged encounter with Hughes was made into the award winning movie, “Melvin and Howard,” in 1980.

Several points:

1. As a single man with no children and no siblings, Hughes definitely should have prepared an estate plan to distribute his billions.

2. As a man who dated Katherine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, and Gloria Vanderbilt among others, it is doubtful that Hughes frequented a brothel hours from Las Vegas although the uncut hair and fingernails might have been a turn off..

3. If this incredible story were not already made into a movie, it screams of material that needs to be made into a movie.

Photo Credit:  United Press International

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Huguette Clark = Howard Hughes?

As part of her $300 million fortune, Huguette Clark owned Bellosguardo, a 23 acre estate on the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara valued at $85 million.  She inherited it in 1963 upon the death of mother but never visited it because she did not want to diminish her memory of her mother there.  In a matter mirroring that of Howard Hughes’ Mormon Will, a pro se Santa Barbara woman filed a lawsuit against the estate claiming that after an hour conversation in 1985, Ms. Clark gave her the mansion by writing “Cabrillo Mansion yours” on a piece of paper.    A court dismissed the lawsuit because the statute of limitations had expired in 1989.

Several points:

1.  To convey property, a deed must contain the grantor’s name, the grantee’s name, a description of the property, and must be appropriately witnessed and/or notarized.  Real estate cannot be conveyed via the equivalent of a bearer bond.

2.  It is heartening to see that no attorney wanted to touch this obviously fraudulent case.

3.  Perhaps if the note had also provided that the Church of Latter Day Saints would also receive Bellosguardo, she would at least have been able to sell the movie rights to “Lori and Huguette.”

huguette clark


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I am an attorney located in Cincinnati, Ohio who practices in the areas of estate planning, probate, asset protection, and small business advice. I make a difficult and bewildering process as simple as possible. Most importantly, I provide "more for less" for my clients.