Thursday, May 6, 2010

Williams loses on appeal

AN ODD DEVELOPMENT. Surfin’ the net, I happened upon a successful appeal, published today (here is the download).

It is the reversal of a court decision made back in May in favor of John Williams, OC Public Administrator. It concerns the estate of Charles David Lewis Jr., aka “Mask”—some sort of celebrity, who died a year ago in an automobile accident in Newport Beach. (See Charles Lewis, Jr..)

His Ferrari was hit by a Porsche driven by a drunk driver.

The appeal was filed (I believe) by Diane Larson, the mother of Lewis' two children.

Why would Williams seek to administer the estate of this guy?

Here are some excerpts:
Diane Larson appeals from the court’s order appointing the public administrator to administer the estate of the deceased father of Larson’s two children, who are decedent’s sole heirs. We reverse because Probate Code section 8464 did not authorize the court to make such an appointment.


On April 1, 2009, Larson petitioned to administer decedent’s estate. The petition stated decedent died intestate in Orange County, California on March 11, and was survived by two children who lived with Larson in Illinois.

On April 7, the public administrator petitioned to administer decedent’s estate, claiming Larson was “not the court-appointed guardian of the estates of the minors” and, even if she were, the court had discretion to appoint “another person entitled to appointment” as administrator. The public administrator stated he was “best suited and qualified . . . to act as administrator” due to the “potential size and complexity of this estate.”

Also on April 7, the public administrator petitioned for letters of special administration. His petition stated decedent was believed to own a 28 percent interest in “TapouT LLC,” a successful clothing and marketing company “associated with the sports of mixed-martial arts and ultimate fighting.” Media reports suggested the value of that interest exceeded $10 million. Decedent was also thought to have substantial bank accounts, securities, “valuable automobiles (including a Porsche Turbo S and a Bentley) and potentially valuable intellectual property rights.”

The next day, Larson petitioned for letters of special administration. Larson stated the minors were decedent’s sole heirs and she was their biological mother and legal guardian. Larson submitted a brief stating that under Illinois law, she could not be appointed the minors’ guardian since she is their living, custodial parent currently caring for them. The court responded to the competing petitions by appointing the public administrator as the special administrator of the estate, and later extended the letters of special administration through May 13. Prior to the May 13 hearing on the petitions, Larson reported that an Illinois court had appointed her the legal guardian of the person and estate of each minor, and that both minors had nominated her to act as administrator of their father’s estate.

At the May 13 hearing, the public administrator argued he was “better suited to handle” the large, “complex” estate. Shortly before his death, decedent had stated his net worth to be “15 million dollars, and his annual income [to be] 1.5 million dollars.” The estate required “a lot of leg work to track down the assets,” such as taking custody of the cars. The public administrator had “three attorneys assigned to this case,” and “a team of investigators and professional fiduciaries . . . .” The public administrator was local, whereas Larson lived in Illinois. The public administrator advised the court that section 8464 gave the court the discretion to appoint as the estate’s administrator either the minors’ guardian or “another person entitled to appointment.”

Larson argued for appointment as the estate’s administrator because she is the minors’ guardian. She asserted there was no conflict between the children and her. … She argued she was qualified, is bondable, and had competent experienced counsel; moreover, the “two sole heirs want their mother to take care of it.” She asked the court, in exercising its discretion, to “consider what would best benefit the children.”

After reviewing the moving and opposing papers, the court approved the public administrator’s petition, appointed him as the estate’s administrator, and denied Larson’s petition.
After an extensive “discussion,” the document ends with:
The court’s order must be reversed because, in the absence of a finding that Larson was not competent to act as personal representative, the court lacked statutory authority to appoint the public administrator, instead of Larson, to administer decedent’s estate and thereby abused its discretion under section 8464. (In re St. John’s Estate (1937) 8 Cal.2d 175, 176-177) [court’s order appointing administrator reviewed for abuse of discretion].)


The order is reversed. Larson shall recover her costs on appeal.
SEE C.A. Reverses Order Naming Administrator of TapouT Founder’s Estate (Metropolitan News-Enterprise)


Anonymous said...

WOW! I am sure the PA would have dwindled that 15 million down to nothing in no time, with 3 attorneys, investigators up the wazoo, private fiduciaries, storage for all the cars.......Besides that, I thought the plaque on the wall in Williams' office states...."When no other alternative exists!"

Anonymous said...

This is fishy--there appeared to be a competent person on board, so why fight so hard, and spend so much time and money, trying to wrest control of this estate?

Out of concern for the children?


Pokey said...

I thought that Williams' office is only supposed to step in when there is no alternative? But, clearly, in this case, there was an alternative, somebody presumably motivated to take care of this guy's assets (for they are now her children's assets).

Quiet night

And I followed her to the station With a suitcase in my hand And I followed her to the station With a suitcase in my hand Well, ...