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Fort Lauderdale millionaire's death sparks estate questions

It is a complete tragedy to lose one's spouse, but it is even more heart-wrenching and traumatic to also be accused killing him. Sadly, for the past three years a Fort Lauderdale woman has been unable to properly grieve for her husband after she was accused of and charged with his murder. Now, not only is she struggling to defend herself and clear her name, but members of the husband's family are actively working to prevent her from accessing his money to defend herself.

When the husband died, he had willed his assets to his 53-year-old wife, but his aunt recently filed a petition in Broward County probate court to contest the will and to determine who should get the former hotel heir's $6 to $10 million fortune. While police have accused the wife of orchestrating her husband's and her mother-in-law's deaths, she is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, the man's family seems convinced of her guilt and wants to restrict her daughter's or her grandson's access to the money because they believe her family will use the money to help her.

The hotel heir's aunt has gone so far as to bring in a genealogical expert to determine who could be considered legal heirs to the estate.

Being accused of murder is extremely serious and the more resources a suspect has access to, the easier it will be for his or her attorney to protect his or her constitutional rights. It is undeniable that murder is an abhorrent crime, but that does not mean that the easy target is automatically the guilty party; everyone accused of a crime deserves a chance to clear his or her name in court.

Source: The Miami Herald, "Heirs to murdered millionaire Novack sought," Julie K. Brown, Feb. 22, 2012

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Andrew M. Coffey has been recognized as a Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer by the Florida Bar. Certification is the highest level of recognition by The Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in the areas of law approved for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida.

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