A family feud in Florida has left a large estate decimated after a prolonged probate battle. News reports out of the state show that the stepdaughter of prolific heir Ben Novack Jr. has received about $50,000 to pay for her son’s heart surgery from the estate, but she faces an uphill battle in attempting to collect the rest of his inheritance. The probate litigation in the case has been fraught with difficulty, as a five-year legal war continues to rage.

Problems arose after Novack’s wife was convicted of arranging his death and the murder of his 86-year-old mother. The woman, who was given a life sentence in the murder-for-hire scheme, is now unable to inherit the man’s assets. Florida law prevents the person who caused a death from benefiting after the event.

The woman and her brother were arrested and convicted of obtaining the services of hit men to kill the man and his mother. They allegedly intended to seize his fortune. The man’s estate was estimated at as much as $10 million, according to official reports.

The man’s stepdaughter is supposed to receive $150,000 from the estate, and the remainder — now worth about $4 million — was slated to be handed down to two of her sons in the form of trusts. Now, though, six other people are claiming shares of the estate. Many of the man’s assets have already been sold, including a massive collection of Batman memorabilia, thought to be one of the largest of its kind.

Even though the man had his estate documents in order, the fact that his wife killed him has thrown a wrench into the legal proceeding. Probate and estate litigation may occur in such an unusual event, even though a decedent may have left a clear plan. A Florida probate attorney may be able to help relatives learn more about their legal rights to an estate in such a situation.

Luis E. Barreto