Samantha Perelman, a 23-year-old student at Columbia University, will be at the center of a nasty family battle in a New Jersey courtroom this week.
She’s a legal novice, but she won’t be lacking for advice. Her father is Ronald O. Perelman, the 70-year-old financier and chairman of the cosmetics company Revlon, whose own fortune is estimated at roughly $14 billion. For his part, Mr. Perelman has never shied away from a court fight, having sued companies, ex-wives and a former business partner.
For years he waged war with Samantha’s uncle James Cohen, the head of Hudson Media, magazine and newspaper wholesaler whose name is emblazoned across stores in dozens of airports around the country, charging Mr. Cohen siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars out of her inheritance. Now his daughter is leading her own charge, with her father picking up the bill.
All told, it has been an ugly legal brawl that has conservatively cost at least $60 million in legal bills so far, according to lawyers on both sides.
Just this morning I was thinking about the Huguette Clark lawsuit for which pretty much all of the late heiress’s relatives are plaintiffs. I haven’t been keeping up with that one; I get tuckered out with this filthy rich lawsuit business. I mean, there are only so many times I can link to stories about legal battles over huge estates.
But I did have one cogent thought, with associate advice. If you have an elderly relative who has money — and I don’t mean a heap of money; I just mean any quantity of money — brace yourself, because it is certain that even before elderly relative dies you will be entangled in subterranean fights over the estate. Relatives you loved and trusted will morph into avaricious monsters over maybe ten thousand bucks. You might as well say bye-bye to them now and arm yourself for The War.
If you are elderly and have money, you have two choices: either zero out — spend it all on yourself before you die — or write a will that takes vengeance on anyone with whom you have had problems.
Because no matter how fair and generous and gracious your will is, your heirs will wrangle over your leavings. They’ll tear apart a salad bowl rather than let the other guy have it whole.
So much better not to be rich or to be related to anyone who is rich.