Jan 31, 2010

From Vagrant to Millionaire: An Estate Planning Soap Opera

Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between an estate planning story and a soap opera. This is both.

Ben Novack Sr., a wealthy hotel developer - he built the Fountainbleu in Miami - had two sons. Ronald, his adopted son from his first marriage, is mentally ill and has been homeless and on the street for much of his 62 years. Shunned by his father, he was left only $1 in his father's will.

Ben's biological son, Ben Jr., was wealthy. He lived a grand life. That is, until 2009, when he was murdered in his home. And that's how Ronald, the black sheep, ended up inheriting millions when his father died.

Where money's at stake, particularly in a complicated family situation like this, there are those ready to do battle for their piece of the pie. And the pie need not be millions to create a family furor; I have seen families ripped apart over far, far less. So it's not unexpected that the family of the late brother has sued. The probate trial starts this week.

Although you can never guarantee there won't be a challenge, those whose families include potentially disgruntled heirs must always focus on strategies to make sure their estate plan is as bullet proof as possible.

Read the full story here.

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