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Equitable Distribution in a Will: The Case of Audrey Hepburn

Estate Dispute Audrey Hepburn.jpg

From what we're told by the media, being a Hollywood celebrity is supposed to the ultimate achievement. Your face shines on the silver screen, you enjoy storybook riches, and all your wildest dreams can come true. That's what we're led to believe, anyway. Take a look at estate, trust and probate litigation among the stars, and you'll see that they're as human as the rest of us. Award-winning actors, despite all the cinematic glitz and glamour, undergo the same life trials as everyone else - sickness, daunting moral and psychological challenges, and eventual death.

And just like other mere mortals, celebrities' families inevitably have to deal with estate and probate administration issues, which can end up in court as full-blown estate disputes. Moreover, the amount of money involved in these stories often only serves to magnify the tragedy, lingering wounds which no amount of residual fame can heal. One more recent example of a celebrity estate dispute is the case of Audrey Hepburn, who died in 1993 at age 63 from cancer. Hepburn, once upheld in Hollywood as a classic paragon of beauty and grace, had two sons from two different marriages - Luca Dotti and Sean Ferrer. And although by all accounts her will and estate plan were well-ordered, there was a complication that eventually reared its head down the road.

According to Hepburn's will, both Dotti and Ferrer were designated as the heirs to her estate's memorabilia, all stored in a warehouse. Included are many the late actress's wardrobe accessories, such as hats, dresses, scarves and jewelry, as well as movie scripts and the awards she won for her cinematic roles. Yet there was one detail Hepburn didn't specify - how all those items of highly sought-after memorabilia would be split. She only said that the collection should be divided 50/50. When Dotti and Ferrer finally got around to divvying up their mother's unique property 22 years after the Breakfast at Tiffany's star's death, they couldn't agree on what would comprise each party's half. That's why they're now in Los Angeles County Supreme Court, where a judge will do the adjudicating for them.

There's likely much within Hepburn's memorabilia collection that carries not only high monetary value, but also emotional significance for the two sons. In estate disputes both money and emotions can converge into a volatile recipe for family conflict, and with celebrities it's likely to boil over into the public eye. Such as been the case, for example, with other deceased artists like Robin Williams, James Brown, Tony Curtis, etc. Just remember, stars and their families have estate fights that are just as nasty or worse as those suffered by ordinary folks. The Walk of Fame isn't all it's cracked up to be.

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