New Jersey frozen pizza lovers may have heard of Jeno Paulucci, who founded Chun King Foods and was worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 million at the time of his death in Nov. 2011, at the age of 93. Up until weeks before his death, control of the majority of his fortune rested with two attorneys serving as trustees of one of the frozen pizza tycoon’s trusts. In Oct. 2011, he replaced them with two other people. Paulucci’s wife died just four days before he did, and shortly before her death, she made the same change to her trust. That move has sparked a probate dispute by two of the couple’s children.
In fact, the pair has filed no fewer than 16 lawsuits regarding control of their father and mother’s trusts. The controversies center on whether their father and mother were competent at the time they made the changes. According to claims made by the two of the couple’s three children, neither was competent to sign legal documents.
As for their mother, the children allege that her doctor says she was incompetent the day she signed over control to the two Florida men. Their father was on numerous medications and allowed to drink an Italian liquor along with those medications during the time the transfer document was signed. Reports point out that it was not unusual for Paulucci to make such changes. To illustrate this point, he changed the trust in question no less than 13 times, including three times in the year prior to his death.
Regardless of the changes being made to any estate planning document, one of the most delicate and often contested issues surrounds the competency of the person signing the documents. Great lengths are often employed to ensure that a New Jersey resident is aware of what they are signing and the ramifications of the changes. If done properly, a probate dispute can often be minimized. However, if there is any question, problems such as those in this case could arise.
Source: orlandosentinel.com, Frozen-pizza magnate Jeno Paulucci’s heirs fight over $150 million, Rene Stutzman, Jan. 18, 2014