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Dennis Hopper's deathbed divorce battle getting uglier

Actor Dennis Hopper, at 73 years of age, is dying from cancer.  To make matters worse, he is battling in a nasty divorce that pits his three adult children, from prior marriages, against his wife, Victoria Duffy-Hopper (she's number five for Hopper, if you're keeping score), over whether she'll inherit anything when he passes.  Here is The Probate Lawyer Blog's prior article on the case.Dennis_hopper_duffy

ABC News posted its Top Ten "most hurtful accusations" from the court fight, including:

  • Hopper's assistant claimed Duffy-Hopper threatened to kill her.
  • Duffy-Hopper called Hopper an abuser who once threatened that "something bad is going to happen to you and you won't see it coming".
  • Hopper accused his wife of stealing millions worth of artwork and other valuables from him, and from secretly taking away their young daughter, preventing him from having a final Christmas with her.
  • Hopper's daughter, Marin Hopper (who is six years older than her "step-mother"), feels frightened for her safety because of Duffy-Hopper.
  • Duffy-Hopper claims that Marin and the other adult children coerced Dennis Hopper into filing the divorce by taking advantage of him when he was legally incapable of managing his affairs.
You can read ABC News' Top Ten article here.

Previously, the judge had granted Hopper a restraining order to keep his wife away, based on a doctor's report that her presence was harmful to his health.

A couple days ago, the judge reversed course and ruled that Duffy-Hopper could live at Hopper's Venice, California property (but at a different house than Hopper) and that he was to pay $12,000 per month in spousal and child support, as well as $200,000 to her for legal and accountant fees.

But what about the battle over her inheritance?  That is yet to come.  Reportedly, the couple signed a prenuptial agreement before they wed 14 years ago, that called for her to lose her inheritance if they were divorced or were living apart.  And there's a court hearing set for May to determine how to divide his life insurance policy.

Family feuds over inheritances -- especially in second-marriage situations -- are very common.  The odd part about this one is that the person whose money is being fought over is still alive and competent.  While Hopper was too ill to attend the court hearing, his three adult children did, on his behalf (along with his lawyer of course).

The divorce judge finds the whole situation odd as well.  She sternly lectured the two sides to put aside their differences, because the seven-year-old daughter was already losing her father and all the fighting certainly won't help her get through it.

Inheritance fights can come in all shapes and sizes.  If you find yourself facing one, make sure to work with an experienced probate litigation attorney.

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.

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