WHITE PLAINS— The stepdaughter of a Florida millionaire who was brutally killed at the Hilton Rye Town — and her two children — are poised to inherit his multimillion dollar estate, a vast fortune that includes a fleet of classic cars, a luxury yacht, two ritzy homes and numerous bank accounts.
May Abad, whose mother, Narcy Novack, was convicted of orchestrating the 2009 slaying of Ben Novack Jr. at the Rye Brook hotel, is the clear frontrunner in a probate battle that would see her collect $150,000 and have the rest of the Novack estate awarded to her two adult sons.
Douglas Hoffman, the administrator of the estate, said Abad and her children should land the bulk of the estimated $4.2 million fortune this month because Narcy Novack, the primary heir in her husband’s will, is likely to be disqualified as a beneficiary under Florida’s “slayer statute,” which prohibits someone who caused the death of an individual from benefiting from the death.
“If things fall out through the Florida probate law and the slayer statute is invoked, then assets will flow into Mr. Novack’s will,” Hoffman said. “It’s 150,000 to May, and everything else goes into these two trusts.”
Ben Novack’s relatives are nonetheless staking their own claims — his adopted half-brother, Ronnie, has filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the existing will. While earlier claims by the family have failed, he and other relatives continue to push to disqualify Abad, 37, and her sons as beneficiaries.
The feud stems from a brutal crime. Narcy Novack, 56, and her brother, Cristobal Veliz, 59, were convicted of hiring hitmen to bludgeon Ben Novack to death in his hotel suite on July 12, 2009, and to kill his mother, Bernice Novack, in the garage of her Fort Lauderdale home three months earlier.
Federal prosecutors said the pair, who were both sentenced to life in prison last month, sought Ben Novack’s fortune, which included his mother’s estate following her death.
Ben Novack’s father was the founder of the glitzy Fontainebleu Hotel in Miami Beach. After his father lost the beachside hotspot to bankruptcy, the younger Novack formed Convention Concepts Unlimited, a lucrative company that sponsored Amway conventions throughout the country.
According to an order of forfeiture signed in White Plains federal court last month by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas, Ben Novack’s estate includes:
■Two adjoining properties owned by Ben Novack on Delmar Place in Fort Lauderdale, and Bernice Novack’s home at 2757 NE 37th Drive in Fort Lauderdale.
■Nine cars, including a 1957 Ford Thunderbird, a 1962 Ford coupe, a 1970 Jaguar XK E Series II, a 1988 Jaguar XJ SC V12 and a 2004 Cadillac Escalade, plus a Honda scooter.
■A tenth car, a 1977 Lincoln that was remodeled into a Batmobile, the largest item in a valuable collection of Batman memorabilia.
■A yacht named “White Lightning” and a 35-foot, two-level barge.
■Merrill Lynch accounts and payouts from life insurance policies for both Ben Novack Jr. and Bernice Novack.
■Comerica Bank and UBS Bank accounts in Ben Novack’s and Bernice Novack’s names, and a Bank of America account in the name of Ben Novack’s company.
■Cash totaling $95,500 stolen from Ben Novack’s suite at the Hilton Rye Town the day after he was killed.
Hoffman said he was prohibited by law from revealing the value of the estate, nor would he comment on whether it’s the $4.2 million he testified to during Novack’s trial in White Plains federal court.
However, Broward County, Fla., records list the current market value of the two Delmar Place homes, which consist of the Novacks’ home and an adjacent cottage, at $2,703,620. Bernice Novack’s home on NE 37th Drive is valued at $736,190, the records show.
Steve Linden, a classic car expert and appraiser from Smithtown, N.Y., estimated the value of Novack’s fleet of vehicles at roughly $103,000 to $189,000. However, Linden cautioned that it was impossible to provide a more accurate estimate without inspecting the vehicles personally for body style, condition, mileage, options, colors and other features.
He said the 1957 Ford Thunderbird could be the most valuable, worth up to $45,000. While he valued Novack’s Batmobile at up to $30,000, he said professionally built authorized replicas can be worth up to $100,000. Linden said he priced the car on the assumption that Novack’s Batmobile was remodeled using “one particular kit out there that uses the 1977 Lincoln as a basis.”
Not enough details were available to provide an estimate of Novack’s yacht and barge. Hoffman also would not discuss how much was in the bank accounts, nor the value of the life insurance policies.
Under the terms of Novack’s will, Abad would get her $150,000 in a lump sum. The trust funds for Abad’s sons, who are both over 18, would be managed by Bank of America. Hoffman said he and a trustee from the bank would decide how the money is paid out and the assets are dispersed — the two could be given the actual cars, boats and homes, or simply receive the proceeds from their sale.
Hoffman said earlier attempts by Ben Novack’s relatives to land the estate by nullifying the existing will failed, and he said the expected scenario is that Abad and her children will soon win out.
Mark Hanson and Jerry Wells, lawyers representing the relatives, said it won’t be without a fight. Wells said he is awaiting a hearing in Broward County Probate Court on the lawsuit filed on Ronnie Novack’s behalf. That lawsuit was initially dismissed but has been refiled.
Handson described a two-prong legal strategy. First is to have the final will tossed, under the theory that Narcy Novack coerced her husband to include her and her daughter and grandsons. The “undue influence” included threatening to publicly reveal her husband’s sexual proclivities, including a fetish for amputee porn, if he did not change his will, Hanson said.
If that fails, they would also try to disqualify Abad as well under the slayer statute using Veliz’s trial testimony that she was the one who orchestrated the killings. Jurors rejected that outright, as the killers themselves testified they never met her and federal prosecutors insisted there was no evidence — save from Veliz’s self-serving claims – that she had any involvement.
Hanson calls that “Plan B” and acknowledges it’s a long shot.
“If this nugget has been thrown out there and we can use it, we’re going to try,” Hanson said.
Narcy Novack case: Daughter poised to inherit multimillion dollar estate
Jorge Fitz-Gibbon/Jonathan Bandler
January 11, 2013