McLaughlin & Stern Partner T. Randolph Harris is representing the estate of Eleanor Close Barzin in cross-national litigation involving a $74 million estate – and multiple wills. Ms. Barzin, who died in 2006 at the age of 96, was the daughter of Marjorie Merriweather Post, once considered the richest woman in America, and the granddaughter of cereal mogul C.W. Post, whose business later became General Foods.
At her death, Ms. Barzin’s estate consisted mainly of art, European real estate, and $32 million in liquid assets that had long been sitting in a Baltimore brokerage account. An amended French will provided that, after various charitable bequests, the estate was to be split between Ms. Barzin’s only child, 66-year-old Antal Post de Bekessy, now living in Austria, and his only child and Ms. Barzin’s granddaughter, Laetitia Allen Vere, of London. However, a U.S. trust created to hold the $32 million provided that, after similar bequests, Mr. de Bekessy was to receive only 25% of the estate, with Ms. Vere receiving the remaining 75%. And a U.S. will left everything to Mr. de Bekessy.
The result has been dueling probates on both sides of the Atlantic and competing lawsuits or estate matters filed in New York, Washington, DC, Baltimore, Paris, and Switzerland. While Mr. de Bekessy is administering the French estate, Mr. Harris of McLaughlin & Stern is representing Ms. Barzin’s U.S. executors and trustees – who control the $32 million in liquid assets – in litigation in New York Surrogate’s Court. The court filings in that case, which have been laced with allegations of conspiracy and “cover up,” implicate complex multi-national tax and probate issues and reveal deep rifts between father and daughter.
Mr. Harris is a Partner in the Trusts and Estates Department at McLaughlin & Stern, LLP, a New York-based full-service law firm that provides transactional, dispute resolution, estate planning, and other services to corporate and individual clients worldwide.