Dennis Hopper was already fighting against advanced prostate cancer. Now the 73-year-old actor is turning up the heat in his battle against his wife, 41-year-old Victoria. He filed for divorce in January, and according to published reports, the key factor is his will.
Victoria is a 25% beneficiary under Hopper's will. But, in the case of divorce, the couple's prenuptial agreement says that she gets nothing. And that's the sole motivating factor behind the divorce, according to Victoria. She blames his three children from a prior marriage and says that Dennis is not making rational decisions, due in large part to the medication he's taking.
In other words, she says it's all about the estate planning.
And it's hard to argue with that point. Dennis Hopper's lawyer was in court last week, seeking a restraining order against Victoria to keep her away from him. His attorney filed a doctor's report saying that his estranged wife is hampering his recovery. The doctor feels that the less he sees of her, the better.
Why? According to papers filed in the divorce proceeding, Dennis says that she's after his will. Dennis claims that in November, Victoria's mother told him he should change the will and leave everything to Victoria, because he was going to die soon. Dennis also says his wife and mother-in-law would wake him in the middle of the night and badger him about his will.
So, yes, it seems the divorce is all about the estate planning.
But who is the bad guy here? Is it Victoria, a scheming gold-digger after his money? Dennis says so. He feels he gave her every luxury he could, which of course only made her want more.
Or are Dennis' children the bad actors? Are they taking advantage of their father in a weakened state to cut his wife out, so they can get more?
Or is it Dennis himself? Victoria says he threatened to kill her, and she found a loaded handgun and shotgun in her bedroom, despite the fact they were living with their six-year-old daughter.
According to Dennis Hopper's doctor, he's perfectly capable of making his own decisions and is in fine mental health. It seems like the Judge agrees, because the divorce is going full-steam ahead. Dennis got his restraining order a few days ago.
So, it looks like Dennis and his children will get their wish, and Victoria will get cut out of the will. Unless he succumbs to his battle with cancer first, that is.
The really sad part of this saga isn't that it's happening to the Hopper family. Rather, to me, the really tragic part is that this type of family drama is far too common. Families often place aging or disabled seniors in the middle of a tug-of-war over money, especially in second marriage situations. Do you think people stoop to this level only when millions of dollars are involved?
No! In this economy especially, I see families act just as ruthlessly over $100,000, or even less. Too many people see sickness and death as a financial opportunity. And that's the real tragedy.
There is some hope. A well-crafted estate plan, from an experienced estate planning attorney, is a good start. And a vigilant family who protects aging or dying loved ones from unsavory sorts is a must.
The problem is that spotting the true gold-digger isn't always easy. Sometimes it's a new spouse or girlfriend. Sometimes, it's the children from a prior marriage. Other times, it's a caregiver.
Regardless, anyone who thinks that this only happens in Hollywood--and that it can't happen to their family--needs to think again.
Posted by: Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founder and shareholder of The Center for Probate Litigation and The Center for Elder Law in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law. You can email him at awmayoras @ brmmlaw.com.Follow us on Google+