Generoso Pope founded The National Enquirer tabloid and from it he rose a fortune. Two of his heirs have been feuding for years in the courtroom — the result: allegations of kidnapping, fraud, extortion, and an arrest for criminal stalking. When people talk about the love that occurs between a mother and son, it probably wasn’t of this variety.
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Generoso died in 1988, leaving a will and trust that called for the company to be sold. Paul Pope, Generoso’s son was eager to purchase and run the tabloid, but wasn’t able to raise the capital. The National Enquirer reportedly sold for $412.5 million, with $200 million going to Lois Pope — Generoso’s widow and Paul’s mother — while $20 million was left for each of the four children, including Paul.
Paul claims that close to $186 million from the estate funded a marital trust created by Generoso. Per the typical marital trust, Lois was to receive all of the income from the trust while she was alive, with the rest passing to the children when she died.
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Paul spent his portion of the inheritance and sought more from his mother. Despite her willingness to help him, it was was never enough for Paul, she says.
In 2006, Lois Pope sued Paul for breach of contract, claiming he reneged on a $340,000 promissory note to her. Paul countersued, alleging his mother promised to buy him a $5 million home and provide him with $1 million of income per year.
In a press release detailing the countersuit Paul alleged that his mother, as a co-trustee, mismanaged the marital trust and invested the assets to maximize her income at the cost of growth. In addition, Paul said his mother used a charitable institution she ran, the Disabled Veteran’s Life Memorial Foundation, as a cover for the lavish parties forr she and her friends, donating only 6% of the money raised to the deserving charitable cause.
Despite a number of additional lawsuits over the years, recently, the feud appears to have reach its conclusion, with Lois agreeing to drop the criminal charges and Paul dismissing his kidnapping lawsuit.
With that said, Paul has recently claimed that his mother and other trustees have hidden away millions of dollars in offshore accounts.
This case is a prime example of the type of battle that is more common than you would think. Probate battles over management of trusts, especially in the instances where the trustee is also a beneficiary, ignite in more families than celebrities and the rich. Feuds between second spouses and children from prior marriages, or between siblings, often come down to accusations that a trustee is using his position of trust to benefit himself, while shorting the other beneficiaries.
For this reason it is imperative to be careful about whom you name as trustees when creating a marital or other variety of revocable trust, especially in those families of second marriages, disgruntled siblings, or those with peculiar eccentricities.
Christopher J. Berry is a Michigan estate planning attorney and Medicaid planning lawyer dedicated to helping seniors, veterans and their families navigate the long-term care maze. To learn more visit http://www.theeldercarefirm.com/ or call 248.481.4000