There are some things that are beyond our control. Although people write wills to determine who is to inherit an estate after passing, sometimes things do not go as we once intended.
This is what happened to the legal heirs of millionaire IT guru Max Hopper, who once pioneered a flight reservation system that became the industry’s standard.
Hopper had the bad fortune of dying of a stroke without having written a will in 2010. He was survived by his second wife and her two stepchildren. Naturally, they were to inherit Hopper’s fortune, amassed through decades of hard work. The estate was valued at around $19 million.
JPMorgan Chase was entrusted with the administration of the estate. The financial institution was to collect debt, pay obligations, organize the late Hopper’s finances, and, ultimately, hand out the resulting funds to Jo Hopper, the widow, and Hopper’s children, Dr. Stephen Hopper and Laura Wassmer.
But instead of organizing finances, JPMorgan allegedly put the family through a terrible ordeal. Hopper’s widow sued the bank claiming that it had taken them over five years to release valuable assets, including a collection of thousands of golf putters and hundreds of bottles of fine wine.
Moreover, Mrs. Hopper introduced evidence to substantiate claims that JPMorgan had used the estate’s money to sue the heirs, thus depleting it. A jury found her allegations of breach of fiduciary duty to have merit, and a $4 billion award was granted, in punitive damages.
In establishing this amount, jurors were asked to factor in the bank’s market value, which is estimated at $330 billion.
Upon the announcement of the jury’s decision, the widow said she had been "horribly mistreated” by the bank. She also expressed hopes that the verdict might act as a deterrent for similar wrongdoing in the future.
Additionally, Mrs. Hopper regretted having suffered psychological and emotional damage, as the bank’s delays and mishandling of the estate had fostered animosity between her and her late husband’s children.
When you reach the golden years, thinking of loved ones suffering, having to fight over an inheritance can be your worst nightmare. But these things happen more often than we would like to acknowledge.
Will contests are common, and they often have merit. While Hopper died without a will, having a will does not necessarily solve every potential problem. When it is time to contest a will, securing the services of an experienced will contest lawyer can help you safeguard the financial and emotional well-being of your loved ones.
If something isn’t right in a loved one’s will and you want to know your options. Call our office for a no-cost conversation on your options to contest a will or inheritance. 833.201.1555 or CONNECT ONLINE