Claudia Cohen was an NYC gossip columnist whose family owned Hudson News outlets.  She was married to Ron Perelman, an NYC business tycoon, from 1985-1994.   Their daughter was born in 1990.  Claudia died of cancer in 2007.   Shortly before her death, she changed her will to name her ex-husband as executor of her estate which was estimated to be worth $68 million.

As executor of her estate, Claudia’s ex-husband has been locked in battles with her brother and now deceased father for the past five years.   The battles range from the valuation of Claudia’s interest in the family business which was set by a partnership agreement, an alleged broken oral promise to leave Claudia half of her dad’s estate, and whether Claudia’s dad needed a guardian.  The estate has lost all of these battles and incurred at least $5 million in legal fees, if not more, plus had to repay a $10 million loan to Claudia’s father.

Several points:

1.   A value set in a partnership agreement or buy sell agreement will be enforced, even it is not the true value of the interest.

2.  It is nearly impossible to win a law suit to enforce a promise to leave someone an inheritance.

3.  It is never a good idea to name a former spouse as executor or trustee, much less one embroiled in litigation with 2 ex-wives at the time of the designation and known for being disputatious.

4.  Claudia’s daughter will be fine financially even if her inheritance from her mother is entirely consumed by legal fees.  Her father is reportedly worth $1.8 billion.