Judge OKs Claim Alleging Marlon Brando Will a Fake
December 26, 2008
The ex-wife of Marlon Brando’s son Christian appears to have made some headway in her attempt to prove that the executors of Brando’s $22 million estate illegally obtained their power through a forged codicil to his will.
A Los Angeles judge had dismissed Deborah Brando’s fraud claim against the executors, finding that her second amended complaint “sets forth no specific facts indicating the nature and content” of misrepresentations the executors allegedly made to her to conceal the forgery while she was negotiating the settlement of a domestic violence suit against Christian Brando.
As part of the settlement, Christian, who died in January, assigned his inheritance rights under his father’s will to Deborah Brando.
But the third time was a charm for Brando as Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos recently overruled a demurrer to the fraud claim in her third amended complaint. “Although the[ ] newly alleged facts are somewhat vague, they address this Court’s concerns by providing more details to apprise Defendants of the allegations against them,” she said.
If Palazuelos had sustained the demurrer, she would likely have done so without leave to amend, meaning Brando could not have refiled the claim.
Marlon Brando’s original will appointed longtime retainers JoAn Corrales and Alice Marchak to administer his estate. The codicil –- dated less than two weeks before his death in July 2004 — replaced them with former Hollywood studio chief Mike Medavoy, accountant Larry Dressler, and Avra Douglas (a friend of Brando’s daughter Rebecca).
Christian Brando never challenged the authenticity of the codicil himself, but Deborah Brando, invoking her assigned rights, alleged in a complaint originally filed two days after Christian’s death that the executors “conspired to deceive and conceal from the Plaintiff the fact that the Codicil to the will was not signed by Marlon Brando, and that the signature thereon is a forgery.”
In her third amended complaint, she addressed the “how, when, where, to whom, and by what means” the executors allegedly deceived her as follows:
1) who –- each of the defendants 2) what –- conspired in forging the signature of Marlon Brando, and concealing the fact of the forgery 3) when –- just prior to the death of Marlon Brando 4) where –- at Marlon Brando’s estate on Mulholland Drive 5) why — to be able to control a multi-million dollar estate, and to profit therefrom.
The suit also includes a claim for a court order declaring the codicil is not valid, but the fraud claim potentially exposes the executors to damages. Palazuelos also allowed Deborah Brando to proceed with a claim against notary public Neil Dekter for breaching his professional duty by notarizing the codicil without witnessing Marlon Brando’s signature.
Marlon Brando’s former caregiver Angela Borlaza filed two lawsuits alleging the signature was forged, but both cases settled before the parties litigated the merits. Deborah Brando’s case has now been referred to mediation.