The Actress, The 80-Year Old and The $800 Million Estate

September 15, 2015Article
American Lawyer

Greenberg Glusker partner Laura Zwicker was quoted in an article that ran in American Lawyer’s Litigation Daily (subscription required) on September 15, 2015, about the trusts and estates battle in Nevada state court involving Gerald Kessler, who founded supplement company Natural Organics Inc., and Meadow Williams, an actress whom Kessler married in Las Vegas in 2010. Williams, Kessler’s junior by more than 40 years, inherited almost all of Kessler’s estimated $800 million estate.

According to the complaint filed by Kessler’s children and grandchildren, Williams manipulated and controlled Kessler, using undue influence to get him to change his will in 2013. Kessler’s family maintains that he was an “an elderly and vulnerable adult” who prior to his relationship with Meadows “maintained a very close and loving relationship with his family.” The complaint alleges that after meeting Williams, Kessler “slowly stopped visiting with most friends, family, and employees. Eventually, Gerald Kessler became completely isolated from those people who loved him most.” Kessler’s family is challenging the validity of his marriage to Williams as well as the estate plan.

Zwicker commenting on the Kessler family challenge to the validity of the estate plan noted, “The first and most important thing is capacity. Did he have the capacity to make a will? Unfortunately for the kids, capacity to make a will is one of the lowest levels.”

In terms of challenging the validity of Kessler’s marriage to Williams, Zwicker said “it doesn’t necessarily matter whether or not Williams was his wife. “You are not required to leave your assets to your family. You can leave them to the dog or the next-door neighbor. But what might matter is if the family can cast Williams as a caregiver.”

States including Nevada have laws designed to curb the ability of caregivers to manipulate the elderly or infirm to leave them all their money.