LeRoy Ern, a former factory worker, left more than $1.6 million after he passed away. Blanche Berenzweig, an ex-insurance agent, received this large inheritance in 2016. Distraught, Ern’s family took the case to trial. After a few months of battling, the family will finally receive nearly all of the inheritance. Berenzweig gets a smaller portion of $150,000 to cover fees for her attorney and relating costs.
Ern’s family objected to the will in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, and they asked the court to void the will. The will made Berenzweig the sole beneficiary. An administrative judge recognized that Ern was dealing with dementia, and was also a client of Berenzweig.
Impact of a power of attorney
In his late life, Ern became close with Berenzweig. She once sold Ern annuity and the relationship continued from there, until eventually she became his medical power of attorney. She fell into the role of the executor. Then additionally, she became a sole beneficiary of two annuities, including his estate. As an end result, she illegally made more than $1 million.
Families often run into probate issues when a distant family member dies. Without knowledge about the will, families can be left in a state of shock. It is also especially hard when there is a hint of financial elder abuse.
Going to trial comes with various risks. Only unique situations with high stakes usually make it into probate litigation. Even then, high-percentage contingency fees and expenses follow serious settlements. However, with the right defense, probate cases can be worth the hassle when millions are on the line.