Mar 14, 2010

King Kong vs. Godzilla

So you think your family has issues? There's a gargantuan legal battle unfolding in yet another famous family. In one corner - let's call him King Kong -- is Revlon chairman Ron Perelman. In the other sits Godzilla, aka Hudson News tycoon Robert Cohen. The two are locking horns over the estate of Claudia Cohen, Perelman's ex-wife and Cohen's daughter.
Irregularities in Claudia Cohen's estate planning -- she made changes to her will while in ill health and at one point, even used her ex-husband's attorney -- is adding fuel to the fire. You can read the Forbes report from the battlefield here (warning: there is profanity in the article).

For Perelman and Cohen, millions are at stake. But let's face it, it doesn't take millions to turn most people into a King Kong or Godzilla. There are plenty of people willing to duke it out over far less. Add in any family issues and you have a volatile recipe for estate litigation.

You can never guarantee that battles won't occur after you're gone. However, you can take steps to do your estate planning by the book, crossing ever "t" and dotting every "i." Establish your plan while there can be no question of your competence, and revisit it every few years, or whenever any major changes occur in your life. Seek experienced legal counsel. And if you smell a potential lawsuit over your estate, document everything with competent, independent witnesses.

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