Judge Freezes Tobacco Heiress Assets
NAPLES, Fla. (AP) _ A judge, ruling in a dispute over the validity of wills, on Tuesday froze the assets of a $10 million estate belonging to a tobacco heiress who died when two pipe bombs demolished her car.
Under Collier County Circuit Judge Charles T. Carlton’s ruling, Margaret Benson’s estate will remain frozen until further hearings are held by vacationing Judge Hugh D. Hayes, who has been assigned the case.
Mrs. Benson, 63, and her son, Scott, 21, were killed July 9 when two pipe bombs ripped through the family’s Chevrolet Suburban. Her daughter, Carol Lynn Benson, 40, was severely burned.
Attorney Guion DeLoach requested last week that Mrs. Benson’s assets be frozen because two different wills - one drafted in 1983, the other in 1985 - were filed.
DeLoach filed the 1985 will two days after the bombing. It names Mrs. Benson’s children as co-executors. The earlier will was filed by attorney Wayne Kerr, 32, and names Kerr as sole executor.
Mrs. Benson apparently never signed the 1983 will, according to Don Van Koughnet, an attorney representing DeLoach. Van Koughnet said a sworn statement, signed by two employees of Kerr’s office, is the only evidence of Mrs. Benson’s involvment with that will.
When Kerr filed the will he obtained permission from Hayes to control the estate. He asked Mrs. Benson’s financial advisers, Dean Witter Reynolds Inc., to give him control of a $1 million investment account.
In court Tuesday, Kerr’s attorney, James Elkins, said ″there were no efforts to remove any assets.″
Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are investigating the bombing, with the help of the Collier County sheriff’s department.