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Old 01-28-2008, 03:26 AM   #1
Huskerz85
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Default Doris Duke

Does anyone remember the case of tobacco heiress Doris Duke? She died in 1993 and much of her fortune was alleged to have been appropriated by her butler Bernard Lafferty.

Lafferty is said to have died in 1996
after living a rather bizzare, extravagant lifestyle, however noone has really disproven the claims by Duke's nurse, Tammy Payette, that Duke was murdered.

While I know there will probably be little to no information regarding concrete evidence either way, what does everyone think??
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Old 01-28-2008, 04:04 AM   #2
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You are right, there wasn't much in the way of concrete evidence either way, so I had a tough time making heads or tails of the case, but I wouldn't put it past Bernard Lafferty to off her given the way he was living (extravagantly)
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Old 12-09-2008, 12:17 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Huskerz85
Does anyone remember the case of tobacco heiress Doris Duke? She died in 1993 and much of her fortune was alleged to have been appropriated by her butler Bernard Lafferty.

Lafferty is said to have died in 1996
after living a rather bizzare, extravagant lifestyle, however noone has really disproven the claims by Duke's nurse, Tammy Payette, that Duke was murdered.

While I know there will probably be little to no information regarding concrete evidence either way, what does everyone think??
BUMP

I saw this segment recently and find like two mysteries in one. 1) Her the events surrounding her death, and 2)Probate and Estate Planning issues that followed her death.

One thing off the bat, UM sugercoated her history. Duke herself could have been charged with what nowadays is classifed as vehicular homicide(manslaughter) or criminally negligent homicide as she killed one of her employees by driving a vehicle she didn't know how to operate. I guess her money paid off $$.

The Duke case obviously would have been much easier if there weren't so many codicil and modifications of her will. Although Lafferty was Co-Executor, I am certain the enormous will had numerous clauses that included many fiduciaries that could carry out some of the responsibilities if the executor(s) failed to do so. Furthermore, numerous contingent beneficiaries. On the surface, Chandi Heffner was the perfect choice to be the executor as she was the closest thing to a daughter that Duke had, Duke had no Issue and only distant kindred. When she was removed through the new codicil and replaced with Lafferty and Dr. Oates, I feel this took away a good deal of motive of Lafferty to actually kill Duke. Unless he is plain stupid and pure evil? Duke didn't die intestate but testate, and this helped him. An executor has many intellectual responsiblities and the surrogates court will have weight those responsibilities with the doctors as Dr. Demopoulous and Oates Vs a Butler. Duke left alot to medical charity, the courts are not to going to think that a butler will know how best to handle those allocations and estates.

From watching the segment it is unclear if there is a clear conservator provided through advance directive? Because eventually lafferty got the power of attorney. To believe that Lafferty killed Duke and manipulated the will would endanger his bequests that were given to him and his overall functions as co-executor. Unless he is a moron, he knows that he will open himself to a will contest. The contestant will argue simply that Duke was non compos mentis(mentally incapable) and that undue influence was done by Lafferty to have the will modified with the codicil. Many Holographic wills(handwritten) are challenged, let alone a will by a super rich infirm woman who is signing from a hospital bed. So Lafferty by both endangering Duke and killing her would open himself to an Affidavit of Objections and most importantly a Motion for Special Administration. The latter, would remove him as executor and have a special admin until the case is sorted out, which can take years.

Once again, Lafferty must be stupid to have attempted to kill or manipulate Duke. Unless he is a great vegas gambler and rolls the dice with two things 1) Motion to Strike the Will Contest or 2)Motion for Summary Judgment because the will contest is legally flawed or weak and that the probate petition without surieties should be granted. Eventually, the NYC Surrogates court gave overrode the will and gave sevaral new trustees control, partly because lafferty was close to death and probably did some sort of stip of discontinuance with predudice with some general release provisions. Maybe Cricci the legendary legal expert can do an Issue Rule Application Conclusion(IRAC) on the Duke Probate Petition?

I tend to agree with the criminal investigation and dont find that foul play was involved in her death, although not impossible. But as I said, she kind of got away with killing someone, so what is "good for the goose is good for the gander."
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Old 12-22-2008, 09:53 PM   #4
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Lifetime sometimes played the biopic "Too Rich: The Doris Duke Story" with Lauren Bacall. The film also demonized her butler who stole money from her :\ Sad life.
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Old 12-22-2008, 11:12 PM   #5
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There was an HBO movie made about Doris Duke this past year called Bernard & Doris, starring Susan Sarandon and Ralph Fiennes. Has anyone seen it?
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Old 12-22-2008, 11:17 PM   #6
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Yeah I liked it. I was in DC in a hotel while it was on, and didn't realize it was on her until later.
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Old 12-31-2008, 01:32 AM   #7
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Hmmm... don't have much to add on this one. I agree that Doris's estate was absolutely complicated by the number of changes made towards the end,

However, do we know for certain what Doris's mental state was like in her final days? I know that I, for one, would absolutely hesitate if a client came to me with wishes to remove their daughter as executor, ESPECIALLY if she wanted to replace them with her caretaker and her doctor. I would suspect that there was some sort of undue influence working its voodoo.

I'll try to give this case a bit more thought, but keep in mine that 1) While a lawyer, I'm far from a legal expert and 2) I'm a CRIMINAL lawyer who fell asleep over her Estates textbook more than once.

Funny sidenote, though: Holographic wills? Totally legal in Montana.
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Old 05-25-2015, 11:38 PM   #8
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Just watched this today on lifetime. I know the butler has since passed away in 1996, but he had it good in her will, $500,000 a year for the rest of his life.
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Old 05-26-2015, 02:00 PM   #9
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I always thought the butler was shady. She couldn't hold her pen up to sign away her money and in and out of it...hmmm.
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Old 05-26-2015, 02:25 PM   #10
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Wouldn't mind seeing this again as it's been awhile. My gut reaction to the segment at the time was that she wasn't murdered, but I did think things were "sped up" by way of certain medications, if that makes any sense.
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Old 06-02-2015, 03:36 PM   #11
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I don't know enough to make a definite judgment either way but If I just go by my gut reaction...they were all greedy and seedy. I don't think she was murdered. However, I think Bernard wanted on her good side knowing he would benefit financially after her death. I think the other employees that sued Bernard wanted a piece of the pie too so to speak.
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Old 03-11-2020, 08:34 AM   #12
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They updated this case on Prime, saying that after an extensive investigation, they ruled out foul play and threw out the lawsuits filed against Lafferty. Lafferty was really dragged through the mud throughout the segment too, and the guy had nothing to do with her "murder".
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