Nicole Simpson’s Children, Parents Settle Fight Over Estate
The legal representative of O.J. and Nicole Brown Simpson’s children has settled a lawsuit against the slain woman’s parents, ending a dispute over whether the children were entitled to more than $260,000 the Browns allegedly made from the sale of their daughter’s belongings, it was announced Monday.
The confidential settlement, which court officials said was reached Friday, closed one of the uglier chapters of the never-ending postscript to the O.J. Simpson case. A trial on the probate issues was scheduled to begin Monday.
“The matter has been amicably resolved among the parties via a private resolution,” said Gary M. Ruttenberg, the personal attorney for Nicole Brown Simpson’s parents, Louis and Juditha Brown. He would not say whether the Browns are repaying the estate.
Attorneys for the children’s legal representative confirmed that a settlement had been reached but would not comment further.
B. Wayne Hughes, the guardian for Sydney and Justin Simpson’s estate, filed papers in July demanding that the Browns repay the children for profits they made from selling Nicole Brown’s belongings. Although O.J. Simpson was awarded custody of the children in the wake of his wife’s slaying, Hughes has continued to represent the children in this probate matter.
Hughes claimed that the children were entitled to $100,000 that the Browns made when they sold Nicole Simpson’s diaries to the National Enquirer, $162,000 they received from the sale of photographs and a video of the Simpson wedding, and any other money the Browns or their children made from the sale or use of Nicole Simpson’s personal property.
Hughes also sought $6,665 of estate money the Browns spent in their unsuccessful bid for custody of the children and repayment of a $50,000 loan he said Nicole Simpson made to her father shortly before her death.
In papers filed with the court, Hughes took issue with Louis Brown’s claims that he owned his daughter’s diary.
Brown said in a deposition that Nicole Simpson told him on Mother’s Day 1994--a month before her death--that her ex-husband was going to kill her, court documents allege. Brown said Nicole Simpson told him that “she had incriminating information that she wanted me to have if anything did happen to her, if she lost her life.”
O.J. Simpson was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman, but a subsequent civil trial found that he was liable for the deaths. A jury ordered him to pay the two families $33.5 million in damages.
A few days after her death in June 1994--on the same day as the infamous slow-speed chase of O.J. Simpson’s white Ford Bronco--Nicole Simpson’s cousin said he found an envelope stamped and addressed to Louis Brown, court documents say. Her diary was later found inside.
But Hughes’ attorneys argued that Brown was not entitled to the diary because it was not given to him before his daughter’s death or specifically bequeathed to him. They contended that it automatically became part of Nicole Simpson’s estate and therefore the property of her beneficiaries, Sydney and Justin.
Brown’s attorney sought to downplay the legal wrangling.
“Disputes among family members in [probate] is not uncommon,” Ruttenberg said. “What is uncommon today is for the matter actually to reach the stage of being tried.”
Laurie Levenson, associate dean at Loyola Law School, agreed.
“There’s no surprise that it settled,” Levenson said. “I think both sides often realize that unless you settle it, everybody loses. Just for decency purposes and avoiding undue publicity, settlement is often the better solution.”
In her May 1994 will, Nicole Simpson had made specific allocations to her family in the event of her death, court papers show.
To her mother, she left a gold bracelet set with 52 diamonds, a platinum Art Deco watch and opera-length pearls.
Her father would share Nicole’s Ferrari Mondial, valued at $35,000, with her mother.
Nicole left sister Denise Brown an 18-karat gold Rolex watch, as well as the contents of some bond and IRA accounts. Another sister, Dominique Brown, was left a 14-carat diamond pendant on a herringbone chain and a 14-karat gold stickpin with a single diamond.
The youngest sister, Tanya, was left 1,000 shares of stock and a single stud diamond earring, the mate of which was lost, Nicole Brown noted in her will.
Nicole left a 14-karat gold, emerald and diamond bangle bracelet to her “cousin, whom I call brother,” Rolf Baur.
Altogether, Nicole had 17 pieces of jewelry--including several diamond watches, necklaces, rings and bracelets in addition to the ones she specified for her mother and siblings--appraised at $42,592. Those not specifically left to her family are now the property of Sydney and Justin.