After a loved one passes away, everyone wants their fair share of their estate. But sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between a fair share and a lion's share. For the case of Idelle Stern's estate, none of the inheritors could seem to find common ground, and the value of the estate has since dwindled from $12 million to roughly half that amount.
The story started to get really complicated all the way back in 2011 when three of Stern's daughters accused their fourth sister and her husband, Mr. Sugar, of manipulating the decedent for monetary gain. The heat picked up after they even went as far as to accuse him of poisoning the widow when she passed away in 2013; test results would later come back as negative for poisoning. Before that, however, Mr. and Mrs. Sugar were sued for elder abuse and theft, resulting in an eventual fine of $580,000 out of their potential inheritance.
The trouble didn't stop there, though, as it would later be discovered that a bank account in Israel had received $350,000 from a transfer conducted by Mrs. Sugar. When the court found that the Sugars had not disclosed enough information to the three sisters about the Israeli bank account, they were quick to file for an appeal. As of the time of this report (October 2015), it does not appear that the settlement case has been finalized, and the internal family conflicts will continue to spill out into the courtroom.
Where Did the Estate's Value Go?
Bringing your legal matters to court is not a free service, and attorneys are not charities. The estate was brought through the wringer so many times, all of the fees related to representation and courtrooms amassed into the millions, effectively causing all parties involved to lose about half of what was once to be inherited. Mr. Sugar felt that much of the problem came from the unclear powers granted to guardians in such situations.
The case's costs are so staggering that it caught the attention of legislators around the world. In Florida, the state all of this played out in, lawmakers took to readdressing the laws surrounding guardianship in an attempt to clarify a system that had been accused of encouraging greed instead of cooperation. Several policies are currently being reviewed and may be altered, solely due to the excessive length of this case.
For more information about estate planning and probate law, and how they pertain to cases as complicated as the one aforementioned, you can contact the Law Office of Conrad Willkomm, P.A. Our Naples estate planning attorneys can also help you handle similar issues that might be troubling you. Find out more by requesting a free case evaluation today!