Most of a Beverly Hills woman's $20-million estate--contested by her husband, who was cut out of her will just two days before her suicide--will go to a Jewish anti-drug program in Los Angeles and two other charities under a settlement reached Wednesday.
Attorneys for the husband, wealthy real estate developer William Weinberg, 59, agreed to the settlement despite the fact that he and their two teen-age children, Marc, 18, and Elizabeth, 17, get no money.
The agreement before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Christian E. Markey Jr. averted a trial over the terms of a will executed Dec. 3, 1985, on behalf of Hermine J. Weinberg, 45, which left the bulk of her estate to Chabad House, a residential treatment center for drug addicts in Westwood, and two groups doing research to combat Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
Just 36 hours after the will was completed--removing her husband and children as heirs as set forth in previous documents--the woman stepped into the closed garage of the family home, turned on the engine of a Rolls-Royce and died of asphyxiation, court documents said.
The couple, who had been married for 17 years, were in the process of divorcing, attorneys said. Her death came on the day of a child custody hearing.
Under financial terms of the settlement, which were not disclosed in public, Chabad House will get at least "several million" dollars, said Chabad attorney Marshall B. Grossman.
Hermine Weinberg was a longtime supporter of Chabad House and its activities, several attorneys said.
The amounts to be received by the two other groups have yet to be determined. But those also will be in the millions of dollars, attorneys for opposing sides agreed.
Weinberg, who owns the Kahala Hilton Hotel in Hawaii and has other real estate holdings in Southern California, contested the 1985 will, charging that his wife had been unduly influenced by Chabad House officials and her divorce attorney, Robert Nachshin, to leave a substantial bequest to the agency.
Nachshin, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, has denied the allegation in court documents.
Rabbi Shlomo Cunin of Chabad House was in court Wednesday and would not speak directly about the allegations when asked about them. But he and other Chabad officials have denied the charges in court papers.
Weinberg also contended that his wife, who had a history of mental problems, was incapable of executing a new will.
Under the agreement, the status of William Weinberg's assets, including his Hawaii hotel, will not be contested by his wife's estate, said his attorneys.
Among the thorny problems that faced the judge and attorneys was which of the groups doing research to combat Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease would get the money.
In her will, she left money to the Alzheimer's Disease Foundation and the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. But no such agencies exist, attorneys discovered.
In California, there are 19 Alzheimer's groups and five Parkinson's groups. Officials said they are struggling to figure out which of the groups should get the funds.