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Family’s dispute over inheritance nears end of trial

A trial over a contested will that began back in September is finally nearing its end as the final witness took the stand this week. The trial is over the two versions of a will executed by a man who owned and operated Hudson News stands, which many readers have seen in airports around the country.

It is reasonable to expect people to update and revise their will and estate plan over time. In fact, it is advisable in most situations to periodically update a plan to include newly born children and grandchildren or to reflect a change in assets like the sale of property of the acquisition of a new business. In this case the man’s will was updated near the end of his life as he was suffering from progressive supranuclear palsy, a condition which inhibited his ability to walk, speak, and even blink as it got worse. Still, his son and heir apparent says that his father maintained a sharp mind to the end of his life and that he was not taken advantage of when he made changes to his will and altered his holdings in the company.

On the other side of the dispute is the man’s granddaughter who says that her uncle exerted undue influence over the patriarch as his health declined, essentially coercing or tricking him into a series of decisions that left her with much smaller portions of the estate. She is seeking to enforce a will from 2004 that distributed the estate more equally. One of the other major issues is a 2008 sale of some of the company’s assets which resulted in a large windfall profit for the son but no payment to his father, whose estate is at issue. If the father had been paid for a portion of the sale that amount would have been a part of the estate distributed to the granddaughter.

Source: New York Times, “Suit Over Inheritance in the Perelman Family Nears Its End in Court,” Rachel Abrams, March 10, 2014.

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