Tuesday, July 28, 2009

After 36 Years, 100 Greek Relatives No Longer Prevail

A Florida judge ruled today that a will disposing of Jack Kerouac's estate is a fake. Kerouac, the Beat Generation author, left his estimated $20 million estate to his mother Gabrielle in a valid and accepted will. Gabrielle in turn allegedly signed a will, leaving Kerouac's estate and royalties to Kerouac's divorced wife Stella Sampas Kerouac, who was a devoted caretaker of Gabrielle. Gabrielle then died in 1973. For 21 years, Kerouac's estate and royalties were controlled by Stella Sampas Kerouac's family.

In 1994, Jan Kerouac, the author's daughter by another marriage, saw a copy of her grandmother Gabrielle's will and brought a suit contesting the validity of Gabrielle's will. During the process of the litigation, in 1996, Jan died and the suit was taken up by a nephew, Paul Blake.

The court ruled that Gabrielle was too sick before her death and could not have signed the will. Handwriting experts also determined Gabrielle's signature was fake.

The AP reports that shortly before his death from alcoholism at age 47, Jack Kerouac wrote his nephew Paul a letter, expressing his desire to leave all of his work and belongings behind to his mother, "and not to leave a dingblasted (two expletives) thing to my wife's one hundred Greek relatives," he wrote. Unfortunately, it seems the Greek relatives prevailed, until now.

Commentary by Hughes Estate Group. The entire problem here revolves around Jack's and Gabrielle's estate planning. First, if Jack did not ever want his estate going to his prior wife Stella, there are numerous things he could have done to prevent that and provide for his mother at the same time. Jack just didn't think clearly here.

Second, Gabrielle obviously did not do proper planning before she died. If she wanted to leave everything to Stella, she could have done so. If not, she could have done so. She apparently did not do anything, allowing her daughter-in-law Stell to prepare and sign a forged will.

Third, Jack's daughter Jan should have been all over this situation back in 1973, when her grandmother Gabrielle died. Why did she wait for 21 years until 1994 to bring a lawsuit? Hmmmm, there is more to this story than is reported. But, nevertheless, the problem ultimately rests with Jack and Gabrielle and their shortsightedness.

I (Craig Hughes) never cease to be amazed at the frequency in which many wealthy people turn off their minds when it comes to adequate estate planning. I can understand folks with modest estates not getting around to planning, but the frequency of stories in which the wealthy disengage their minds in regard to estate planning is interesting.

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