Richard Francis is the trustee of The Fawcett Living Trust, Farrah Fawcett's trust which details how she wanted her money to pass. You can read the Probate Lawyer Blog's prior article discussing this interesting trust here.
On behalf of the trust, Francis sued Hollywood producer Craig Nevius accusing him of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Fawcett's company and botching production of a television documentary showing her struggles with cancer.
Nevius is not taking the lawsuit lying down. In fact, he says the entire case is a thinly-disguised attempt by Francis to use money from Fawcett's trust to protect his own interests. Nevius had already sued Francis, as well as Ryan O'Neal (Fawcett's longtime companion) and her friend Alana Stewart when Nevius felt they wrongly excluded him from producing the documentary, which aired on NBC in May of 2009. In other words, Nevius says that this lawsuit by Francis is retaliation to get back at him for his lawsuit.
But, that's just the beginning of the fireworks. Nevius claimed that he was a close friend of Fawcett and one of the first she told when she found out she had cancer in September, 2006. He alleges that Stewart (whom he describes as "Ms. Fawcett's self-proclaimed 'best friend'") only found out about her cancer from the internet, weeks later.
Nevius states that Stewart was absent from Fawcett's life "when there were no video cameras present". Stewart, Nevius says, weaseled her way into the documentary so she could profit from it -- and she published a book to make even more money off of Fawcett by divulging her private medical information.
But that pales in comparison to what Nevius says Ryan O'Neal and Richard Francis did. O'Neal, Nevius' court papers say, actually threatened to kill Nevius to get him to surrender control of the documentary. Francis, whom Nevius describes as O'Neal's business manager, later told Nevius to stay away from Fawcett or "you're gonna get your ass kicked in by Ryan! And I mean it!".
Nevius says he only wanted to protect Fawcett and make sure her needs were being met. But O'Neal and Francis conspired to wrest control of the documentary away from Nevius and lock him out of Fawcett's life.
Nevius also expresses his outrage that the documentary included footage of Fawcett on her death bed and being visited by her son in "a prison jumpsuit and chains", which he claims Fawcett never wanted to be shown. Nevius also objects to Stewart and O'Neal both using the documentary to make self-serving statements to benefit themselves.
Nevius says the whole lawsuit is an excuse by Francis to line his pockets and those of his attorneys, at the expense of the trust beneficiaries, including Fawcett's father, who have not received the money they're supposed to from the trust.
Courtesy of Radaronline, you can read Nevius' court filing here. The lawyer representing Francis, O'Neal and Stewart has already responded, calling Nevius' allegations "spurious and outrageous".
So what can you make from all this? Well, clearly, someone tried to exploit Farrah Fawcett while she was dying from cancer. Was it Nevius, by allegedly embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from her? Or was it the trio of Francis, O'Neal and Stewart?
We don't know which side is telling the truth. We do know that it's obviously gotten very ugly.
But the real tragedy is that cases of exploitation of the sick and the elderly is far more common that most people realize. Many see those with cancer or other diseases, or mental deficits caused by dementia and/or Alzheimer's, to be a golden opportunity to get close, cut out others, and end up with the money.
It doesn't just happen to the wealthy, either. Think someone mentally limited with $100,000 in assets isn't a target for someone desperate for "easy money?" They are. And lawsuits where two sides, both claiming to love someone, duke it out in court over his or her true wishes are a growing epidemic.
So talk to your loved ones. Do the proper planning ahead of time. Protect them and be wary.
Many of our clients say they never could have imagined it happening to their family. Fawcett's loved ones are probably saying the same thing.
Posted by: Andrew W. Mayoras and Danielle B. Mayoras, co-authors of Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founders 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. Andrew and Danielle are husband and wife attorneys, professional speakers and consultants across the country.Follow us on Google+