What could go wrong when a Manhattan parking lot magnate dies with a half billion dollars? EVERYTHING Estate of Abe Hirschfeld
Any NY estate lawyer will tell you that most of the time estates go pretty smoothly. Ideally, as a NY estate client you want all of your interests protected in the form of an attorney drafted, supervised and witnessed will. Right away, by having a lawyer execute and safe guard your simple will for a few hundred dollars you can avoid 85% of most estate nightmares.
Unfortunately there are the rare occasions where a proponent of a fraudulent will takes advantage of a dying person near the end of their life. This usually occurs by bringing a less than scrupulous NY estate lawyer to a hospital room to execute a will against their better judgment and training. The proponent then has the decedent execute a will appointing themselves executor and primary beneficiary of any and all estate assets when the testator is weak and vulnerable.
If the proponent is especially opportunistic they will also have the feeble decedent sign over any and all assets to themselves for little or no consideration while the decedent is still alive. After serving families as a NY estate lawyer for this many years we have seen all of this and worse. However it is unusual to see all of these horrific acts occur on a single estate, until The Estate of Hirschfeld.
Abe Hirschfeld died on August 9, 2005 at the age of 85. He had been a Manhattan parking lot magnate amassing nearly $1 billion in assets prior to his death. He briefly owned the NY Post newspaper in 1993, ran for NY public office numerous times as “honest Abe”, and even served 22 months in jail for attempting to have his business partner killed.
It is only befitting that Abe Hirschfeld’s estate be just as interesting as his life. Abe Hirschfeld left behind a daughter, Rachel and son, Elie. Abe Hirschfeld died from a nasty fall down a flight of stairs. Evidently the apple does not fall far from the tree as his son Elie was implicated in pushing Abe down the stairs and killing him.
Just prior to allegedly pushing Abe Hirschfeld down the stairs, Elie took his father to a lawyer and had him redraft his will making Elie executor and primary beneficiary of the estate. Eight years after Abe Hirschfeld’s death NY estate lawyers are still battling over the remaining $7 million of estate assets.
Abe’s daughter Rachel Hirschfeld is herself a NY estate lawyer specializing in pet trusts. Among other things, she attempted to argue that the will was the product of undue influence, that most of her father’s estate was looted by her brother before his passing in 2005 and that pursuant toMatter of Wirth, one can not inherit from someone whom they have killed. Unfortunately Elie was never convicted in the murder of his father Abe Hirschfeld as sufficient proof of his pushing Abe down a flight of stairs was never established.
Rachel’s NY estate lawyers were recently successful in knocking out the fraudulent will that Abe’s son Elie had drafted just prior to his death.
As a NY estate lawyer practicing in Forest Hills, NY, none of these fact patterns are new to me. Although I must admit I have never seen all of these facts in one case. The simple truth is, for those of us who get their affairs in order with the help of a NY estate lawyer, the vast majority of estates go very smoothly. Probate is a very efficient and expedient way to transfer wealth offering many advantages over more complicated trusts and estate strategies.
If you or a loved one are thinking about planning their estate and would like a free consultation with a NY estate lawyer feel free to call The Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates at (718) 261-2444.