Award winning actress Anne Heche died in August after suffering severe injuries in a fiery car crash. Now, her young sons, Homer (20) and Atlas (13), are engaged in a very public battle over her estate. The case is making headlines because of Heche’s history, but it is reminiscent of many cases the Palmer & Slay team has handled in the Brandon, Mississippi area.
Heche Died Without An Estate Plan
Shortly after her death, Heche’s eldest son, Homer Heche Laffoon, filed a petition with the probate court. He claimed his mother died without a will, and requested that he be named her estate administrator.
A couple of weeks later, Heche’s former partner James Tupper, who is the father of her younger son Atlas Heche Tupper, filed an objection to Homer’s petition. He claims that Homer lacks the maturity and knowledge required to act as administrator, and provided evidence that Heche wanted him to be in charge of her estate.
The evidence is an email allegedly written by Heche to Tupper in 2011 stating:
“FYI In case I die tomorrow and anyone asks, my wishes are that all of my assets go to the control of Mr. James Tupper to be used to raise my children and then given to the children. They will be divided equally among our children, currently Homer Heche Laffoon and Atlas Heche Tupper, and their portion given to each when they are the age of 25. When the last child turns 25 any house or other properties owned may be sold and the money divided equally among our children.”
While this looks like Heche put some thought into her end of life wishes, it is not legally binding. It lacks a signature and witnesses, which are required under California law. It would not count as a will in Mississippi either. Our state law also requires all wills be signed and witnessed.
What Happens Next?
Whatever happens next in Heche’s case is going to make headlines because she was a high-profile actress. And there are likely to be some twists and turns befitting Heche’s rise to fame as a soap opera star.
What typically happens in cases where there is no estate plan in place, and family members are fighting over who has control of the estate is fairly straightforward. The probate court appoints someone to serve as the estate administrator. That person must then follow the Mississippi laws of intestacy, which spell out exactly who gets what when someone dies without a will.
Palmer & Slay’s experienced team of estate planning and probate attorneys regularly assist clients who want to be, or have been appointed administrator and need someone to guide them through the probate process.
Preserving Your Wealth. Protecting Your Loved Ones.
While most people will not see their family’s estate planning drama play out in the tabloids, many families get into fights when a loved one passes away without executing an estate plan. A lot of heartache and stress can be avoided by contacting Palmer & Slay, and working with us to put together a formal estate plan.
An estate plan can be a simple will, or a complex plan designed to minimize taxes and pass the maximum amount of money on to the next generation. Either way, it will protect your loved ones from the difficult issues that arise when someone dies intestate and family members disagree about what the next steps should be. If you are ready to begin the estate planning process, please contact us today to set up a meeting.