Zsa Zsa Gabor, who appeared in dozens of movies and television shows throughout a career that spanned five decades, is approaching the end. She has a feeding tube, can hardly tell when she’s at home or in the hospital, and is barely able to communicate. According to a recent Associated Press story, she’s been admitted to the hospital nearly two dozen times since last summer, and she recently was in a coma.
Sadly, her final days are surrounding by fighting between her husband of 25 years and her only daughter. Frederic Prinz von Anhalt is her ninth husband, and he’s been her devoted caregiver and says he is constantly by her side.
Gabor’s daughter, Francesca Hilton (yes, from that Hilton family), tells a different story of Von Anhalt. She says he doesn’t let her visit her mother, won’t update her about her medical condition, and that she learned of a recent hospitalization from a reporter, since Von Anhalt won’t talk to her.
Hilton says she wants to see her mother and have independent confirmation that she is being well cared for. She is struggling with having gone from speaking with her mother 10 times a day, she says, to being shut out. Hilton is furious about the publicity Von Anhalt has sought, including a recent picture he released of Gabor sipping champagne. Von Anhalt feels that Hilton is threatened by his relationship to his wife, and that Hilton views her mother as “life insurance.”
Reportedly, both have caused Gabor’s will to be rewritten without telling the other. They also don’t see eye-to-eye about Gabor’s house and other property. Von Anhalt has recently listed the house on the market, for $15 million, noting that Gabor doesn’t know where she is, so there is no need to keep her long-time residence. He’s also auctioning off some of her more famous items and antiques -- including the dress she wore when she slapped a cop in 1989.
Hilton disputes that Von Anhalt has the authority to sell the house. They fought each other in court over the house in 2005 (when Hilton refinanced the house, to protect her mother’s investments she said, but Von Anhalt felt that was improper). It would certainly be no surprise if the pair ended up facing each other in court again soon.
Sadly, this type of feud is all-too-common in second-marriage situations (or ninth-marriage, in some cases). When there is distrust between children from a prior marriage and a spouse, tensions often erupt when the parent/spouse in the middle becomes incapacitated. Often, in fact, it sets the stage for heated guardianship fights in court.
In most cases, the spouse has power-of-attorney and can control the situation. But, if the children feel that something improper is going on, they can (and often do) ask a judge to void the power of attorney and impose a guardianship to protect their parent, if they feel he or she is no longer competent.
Other times, the fight happens after the person dies, focusing on the handling of the estate, including what happens to the real estate and other property (as in the Gabor situation).
Inevitably in these types of conflicts, both sides think that they are only protecting their loved one, and the other side is interested in the money, control, or both. Emotions are usually raw from the reality that a close family member is dying. This can make the dislike for the newer spouse, or children from a prior marriage, turn ugly.
Anyone going through this situation should consult with an experienced guardianship attorney to learn what options there may be. Attorneys who have been through this before realize that trying to reach a middle-ground outside of a court fight is usually best for everyone. But often, the emotions of the situation prevent this from happening.
Hopefully Von Anhalt and Hilton will be able to work out their differences and keep the feud from court, so they can both focus on letting Gabor pass away with dignity.
By Danielle and Andy Mayoras, co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, husband-and-wife legacy expert attorneys, and hosts of an upcoming national PBS special. The charismatic duo has appeared on the Rachael Ray Show, Forbes, ABC’s Live Well Network, WGN-TV and has lent their expertise and analysis to hundreds of media sources, including The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Kiplinger, and The Washington Post, among many others. As dynamic keynote speakers, Danielle and Andy delight audiences nationwide with highly entertaining and informative presentations, dishing the dirt on celebrity estate battles while dispensing important legal information to help people avoid family fights among their heirs. The couple spends their free time with their 8-year old son and seven-year old boy/girl twins.
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