Irvin Feld was a rock-and-roll promoter who purchased “The Greatest Show on Earth” in 1967. He created a promotion company to manage the Ringling Bros. Circus, along with Disney on Ice and monster truck shows, but none of his shows have been as eventful as what’s happened between his two children the last few years.
Feld died in his sleep in 1984. He left most of his assets and his business to his son, Kenneth. His daughter, Karen, reportedly received very little and sued her brother claiming he tried to kick her out of her house. They settled and she was allowed to remain.
Karen also sued Kenneth when he was the trustee of a $5 million trust that their uncle set up for them; that was recently settled as well. The siblings agreed to divide the trust in two so Kenneth would not manage the money left in trust for Karen.
It happened, in all places, during a memorial service for their late aunt, who died in 2007. While a rabbi was performing a religious ceremony during shiva (a traditional gathering of family and friends during the evenings that follow the passing of someone who was Jewish), an altercation started.
Karen Feld says that during the ceremony, she felt she was about to have a seizure, which she often had during times of stress due to prior brain injuries. So she and her toy poodle — which was trained to warn her when a seizure was about to start, she says — tried to go to a back bathroom of the apartment, where it was quiet.
According to The Seattle Times article about the case, Karen claims her brother’s security guards then grabbed her and began to “beat her with fists” while her brother calmly stood by and ordered her removed. The guards took her downstairs in an elevator, where they beat her, banged her head repeatedly on an elevator railing and even sexually groped her, she alleges.
Kenneth denies the claims and says that Karen had a “temper tantrum” and had to be restrained, after she tried to sneak into a part of the apartment where family heirlooms and financial documents were stored. The guards had been ordered not to allow her into the room because Kenneth feared she would take something.
Karen then filed a $110 million lawsuit against Kenneth for injuries she suffered. Kenneth points out that Karen has a pattern of this, claiming that similar incidents occurred to her at an airport and again at a concert.
But Kenneth has some weird skeletons in his closet too. He was once sued by a writer for a spy plot, through which Kenneth had hired a former top CIA operative to spy on the writer and dissuade her from writing a tell-all book about the their father. The book would have disclosed not only the feud between Karen and Kenneth, but deeper family secrets, such as that Irvin Feld was a homosexual and their mother killed herself because of marital problems.
Kenneth accused Karen of revealing family secrets to the writer, which made their bitter relationship even worse. Karen even suspects that Kenneth is a member of the “Jewish mafia.”
Now that bitterness is leading to a jury trial on the personal injury claims, which is scheduled to begin on May 9 in a Washington state court. With all of this dirty laundry already revealed, one can only wonder what will come out during the testimony at trial.
It is very sad when siblings fight after a parent has passed, but it is an all too common experience. Behind second-marriages, sibling rivalries are the most frequent source of family conflict over wills, trusts and estates. While most don’t end up in physical altercations and multimillion dollar assault lawsuits, disputes over joint bank accounts, changes to wills and trusts, questionable gifts between a parent and child, and many other things happen regularly, especially when there was inadequate estate planning.
So don’t let your legacy turn into a three-ring circus after you pass away!
By Andy and Danielle Mayoras, co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, husband-and-wife legacy expert attorneys, and hosts of an upcoming national PBS special. The charismatic duo has appeared on the Rachael Ray Show, Forbes, ABC's Live Well Network, WGN-TV and has lent their expertise and analysis to hundreds of media sources. As dynamic keynote speakers, Danielle and Andy delight audiences nationwide with highly entertaining and informative presentations, dishing the dirt on celebrity estate battles while dispensing important legal information.
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