The butler did it.
Well, this time, he did. Inherit, that is.
The late actress Ruth Ford, wife of Hollywood legend Zachary Scott, left an $8.4 million estate to her Nepalese butler.
This was an interesting turn of events for Ruth Ford's expected heirs, namely her daughter and her grandchildren.
According to Ruth Ford's will, which was accepted last month into the Manhattan Surrogate's Court, she bequeathed two apartments at the Dakota building on West 72nd Street to Indra Tamang.
Indra Tamang took care of the actress for thirty years, until she died at age 98. Her two apartments formed the majority of her estate, with some remaining clothing and jewelry going to her heirs.
The problem Indra Tamang faces is that the co-op board of the apartment may likely frown upon a former staffer owning property in the building.
Nevertheless, this case is a great example of what can go on at Surrogate's Court. I imagine that there may have been some shock upon the finding of the will. The expectant heirs must have felt that there may have been some undue influence in the preparation of the will.
Perhaps people in such a situation would argue that the will was the product of an abuse of power or influence. After all, a butler or housekeeper is someone who is in very close proximity to the decedent.
As such, a will could be contested in Surrogate's Court. An attempt could be made to invalidate the will. There are many reasons to invalidate a will. A crafty New York probate attorney would be very good at this type of thing.
Nevertheless, this case illustrates the power of the Surrogate's Court.
Now, as for the butler in this case-- while he may never live in the building, he has put one of the apartments on the market for $4.5 million. And he is happily living in his house in Queens.
- Keiko Aoki, the Benihana Widow, Fights in Surrogate's Court (New York Estate Planning News)
- What is Surrogate's Court? (New York Estate Planning News)
- Find A NY Estate Attorney (FindLaw)