Our top life insurance lawyers would like to share four famous life insurance cases.
- James Brown’s estate: The singer had several life insurance policies worth over $100 million, which he left to a trust for his children and grandchildren. However, his partner Tomi Rae Hynie claimed that she was his legal wife and entitled to a share of his estate. She also disputed the paternity of some of his children, who challenged her claim. The case has been dragging on for over a decade, with multiple lawsuits and appeals.
- Leona Helmsley’s dog: The hotel heiress had a $12 million life insurance policy with her dog Trouble as the beneficiary. She also left $8 million to her brother and $10 million to her grandchildren in her will. However, her grandchildren sued her estate, claiming that she was mentally unfit when she wrote her will and that they were unfairly disinherited. They reached a settlement in 2008, reducing Trouble’s inheritance to $2 million and increasing theirs to $6 million each.
- Whitney Houston: The singer’s death in 2012 from drowning and drug intoxication led to a legal battle between her estate and her life insurance company Transamerica Life Insurance, which claimed that Houston had lied about her drug use on her application. The insurer sought to rescind the $1.6 million policy, but the case was settled in 2013 for an undisclosed amount.
- James Gandolfini: The actor’s death in 2013 from a heart attack while on vacation in Italy triggered a dispute between his estate and his life insurance company Ohio National Life Assurance Corporation, which claimed that Gandolfini had failed to disclose his pre-existing health conditions and travel plans on his application. The insurer refused to pay the $10 million claim, but the case was settled in 2014 for an undisclosed amount.
Here are a couple more
- Paul Walker: The star of the Fast and Furious franchise died in 2013 in a car crash along with his friend Roger Rodas, who was driving a Porsche Carrera GT. Walker’s estate filed a claim with his life insurance company American General Life Insurance, which paid out $10.1 million to his daughter Meadow. However, Rodas’ widow Kristine filed a lawsuit against Porsche, claiming that the car was defective and caused the crash. Porsche countersued, alleging that Rodas was responsible for the accident and that Walker’s estate should reimburse them for the $10.1 million claim. The case is still pending.
- Philip Seymour Hoffman: The Oscar-winning actor died in 2014 from a drug overdose, leaving behind three children and his longtime partner Mimi O’Donnell. Hoffman did not have a will, but he had a $35 million life insurance policy with New York Life Insurance Company, which named O’Donnell as the sole beneficiary. However, Hoffman’s estranged father Gordon Hoffman filed a claim with the insurer, arguing that he was entitled to a share of the policy as Hoffman’s next of kin. The insurer denied his claim, citing Hoffman’s clear intention to leave everything to O’Donnell. Gordon Hoffman appealed the decision, but the case was dismissed in 2016.
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