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When Estate Litigation Meets Social Media

Estate Law Probate Litigation Social Media

There are occasions in estate, trust and probate litigation when one party's behavior can be particularly outrageous - it's as if the opposing side is actively trying to provoke your anger.

Such, it seems, has been the case with the estate of the late Melva Bucksbaum, an 82-year-old art patroness and board member of the Whitney Museum who passed away in August of last year. Bucksbaum's will set aside the main part of her fortune, worth well over $100 million, to her three children, while her husband Raymond Leary was apportioned $10 million along with a house worth $25-30 million. Leary, Melva's 80-year-old husband of 15 years, wasn't satisfied with his lot, however, and is contesting the will in probate court, demanding a full half of the estate. Bucksbaum's three children are none too happy with Learsy's challenge, and one of them has taken to social media to voice his distaste.

Son Glenn Bucksbaum brought this already contentious litigation battle into the public eye with a post on Facebook, where he not so subtly declared that his stepfather was attempting to hijack the family fortune. The Bucksbaum heir didn't mince words, accusing Learsy of bad faith and dirty dealing:

Raymond Learsy... This name should be known. Full definition of cad. 1: An omnibus conductor 2: a man who acts with deliberate disregard for another's feelings or rights... Get your nose plugs out cuz this really stinks...Transferred real estate out of his name into his children's names weeks before Melva passed away... His son didn't even bother to call for condolences as they have been plotting this for some time.

Indeed, Learsy's motivations do raise some hard questions. After all, the 80-year-old widower is himself a successful trader and developer and, like his late wife was, a board member of the Whitney Museum. Melva Bucksbaum left him around $40 million in assets, but apparently that's not enough for someone who's also not too far from the end of his life's journey. Why does Learsy feel entitled to half the estate when Bucksbaum clearly expressed her wishes for her family in her will?

Perhaps because there's so much more right around the corner to be gained - Bucksbaum's massive art collection, the Tribeca loft, a mansion in Connecticut and an Aspen chalet. It's awfully hard to suppress an acquisitive instinct well-honed through the thrill of the chase, even if common sense says to call it quits. And it's understandable that Glenn Bucksbaum lashed out on Facebook, upset over what he can only perceive as unmitigated greed. Nonetheless, attorneys well-versed in estate litigation know that it's a best practice to hold your tongue in public, especially social media - wrongdoers and the greedy will get their just desserts in court.

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