PALM BEACH (CN) – Friends of the late Standard Oil heiress Anne McBride claim her ex-husband took advantage of the dying, drugged millionaire by persuading her to remarry him and change her will and trust, reducing their take while grabbing $43 million for himself.
Christian Finucane, Olaf Finucane and Christine Gordon sued Wolfgang Von Falkenberg, individually and as a representative of McBride’s estate and trust. They allege constructive fraud and intentional interference with expectancy of inheritance, in Palm Beach County Court.
All three plaintiffs describe themselves in the complaint as “Annabelle’s friend.”
Anne “Annabelle” Terry Pierce McBride, 61, died of breast cancer and renal failure in June 2005, leaving an estate worth more than $44 million.
In December 2004, McBride modified her will to have her estate divided into 7 shares, with Von Falkenberg getting 2 shares, and five other beneficiaries receiving one share each, according to the complaint.
But the plaintiffs say that Falkenberg had McBride change her will in May 2005, while in hospice care, leaving him most of her estate, including money, securities and properties in Florida, California and Hawaii.
“While receiving end-of-life care in a hospice facility, defendant Von Falkenberg unduly influenced and coerced Annabelle to execute a trust, a will, and to marry him,” to the complaint states.
Mincing no words, the complaint states: “The May 2005 Trust and will were executed five days prior to Annabelle’s death, while Annabelle was in a hospice facility.
“Annabelle had been administered morphine shortly prior to her execution of the May 2005 trust and will.
“Defendant Von Falkenberg was in contact with the drafting attorney, Michael Tannenbaum, Esq. about the 2005 trust and will before the documents were executed.
“Defendant Von Falkenberg was with Annabelle at the time of the execution of the May 2005 Trust and Will.
“Defendant Von Falkenberg, through his coercion and intentionally tortuous [sic] conduct, unduly influenced Annabelle to execute the May 2005 Trust and Will. Only after defendant Von Falkenberg’s intentionally tortuous [sic] conduct did Annabelle execute the May 2005 Trust and Will.”
Annabelle’s plaintiff/friends add: “As a result of defendant Von Falkenberg’s intentional interference with Annabelle’s fixed intention for the disposition of her assets, plaintiff’s bequests were dramatically reduced. Instead of each of the plaintiffs receiving payments from a one-seventh share of the total trust corpus under the December 2004 trust – a total interest amounting to several millions of dollars each – plaintiffs’ interests were reduced to $500,000 each in trust under the May 2005 trust.
“Conversely, defendant Von Falkenberg’s intentional interference with Annabelle’s fixed intention for the disposition of her assets dramatically increased defendant Von Falkenberg’s bequest. Instead of defendant Von Falkenberg receiving payments from a two-sevenths (2/7) share of the total trust corpus under the December 2004 trust, he received an outright distribution of approximately $43 million under the May 2005 trust.”
Annabelle’s friends say there’s another problem: “The May 2005 trust stated that defendant Von Falkenberg and Annabelle were husband and wife. Defendant Von Falkenberg were not husband and wife when the May 2005 trust was executed.
“Two days after the execution of the May 2005 trust and will, while Annabelle was in hospice, defendant Von Falkenberg purportedly married Annabelle. Michael Tannenbaum Esq. officiated the marriage ceremony.
“Due to the late stage of Annabelle’s illness, the painkillers she was taking, her sufferance from renal failure, the lack of dialysis, and her being otherwise obtunded therefrom, Annabelle was uniquely susceptible to the undue influence of defendant Van Falkenberg.
“Alternatively, due to the heavy doses of morphine, the late stage of Annabelle’s illness, the painkillers she was taking, her sufferance from renal failure, the lack of dialysis, and her being otherwise obtunded therefrom, Annabelle lacked capacity to execute the May 2005 trust and will.
“The validity of Annabelle’s purported marriage to defendant Von Falkenberg must also be questioned due to Annabelle’s complete lack of capacity.”
Annabelle’s friends say Von Falkenberg also tried to duck estate taxes.
“In furtherance of the defendant Von Falkenberg’s tortuous conduct committed upon Annabelle, defendant Falkenberg next embarked on a campaign intended to defraud the beneficiaries of the 2005 trust and will, and on the U.S. Department of Treasury.”
“Shortly after Annabelle’s death, defendant Von Falkenberg, in his fiduciary capacity, called Gisela Finucane, his sister and the trustee of the shares for plaintiffs Olaf and Christian Finucane. Defendant Von Falkenberg told Gisela numerous time that Gisela had to disclaim Olaf and Christian’s combined $1 million interest in Annabelle’s estate so that defendant Von Falkenberg did not have to pay taxes. Those statements were knowingly false.
“Gisela refused to disclaim Olaf and Christian’s shares.”
The plaintiffs claim Von Falkenberg also contacted Christian Finucane and tried to get him and Olaf to sign disclaimers “so that defendant Von Falkenberg would not have to pay taxes on Christian and Olaf’s shares.”
Plaintiffs Christian and Olaf say they refused to sign such disclaimers.
They add: “When Gisela, Olaf, and Christian refused to sign disclaimers, defendant Von Falkenberg became enraged and stated that it was an embarrassment for him that his own family would not do this for him and that he would have to ask non-family members to sign disclaimers to avoid the tax penalty. Defendant Von Falkenberg stated that he had married Annabelle for the money and that he was not going to let it go now. Defendant von Falkenberg also stated money was more important to him than family.”
Olaf Finucane says he got a check for $500,000 in early 2006.
Christian Finucane says he got a check for $440,000 about the same time, but “defendant Von Falkenberg had deducted $60,000 for a purported debt that Christian owed to Annabelle.”
The plaintiffs seek imposition of a constructive trust, and damages for fraud and deception.
They are represented by Jack Scarola of West Palm Beach and Jeffrey Skatoff of Palm Beach Gardens.