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O.J. Simpson’s Executor Quickly Reverses Course on Paying Goldman Wrongful Death Judgment


The recent death of former NFL player O.J. Simpson almost immediately led to a public controversy involving his longtime attorney, who is now the executor of his estate. Specifically, the executor made–and was then forced to backtrack–public comments he made regarding the estate’s liability for a multi-million dollar civil judgment obtained by Simpson’s former in-laws.

As most people know, in 1997 a California civil jury determined that Simpson was liable for the wrongful death of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. Goldman’s parents filed the civil lawsuit following Simpson’s acquittal on criminal charges arising from the 1994 murders of Brown Simpson and Goldman. The jury awarded the Goldmans $33.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Although the Goldmans seized many of Simpson’s assets following the jury’s verdict, most of the judgment remained unsatisfied at the time of his death. This prompted the controversy, as Simpson’s executor initially told a reporter he would “”do everything in my capacity as the executor or personal representative to try and ensure that they get nothing.”

A few days later, however, the executor reversed course and told the Hollywood Reporter that in fact, the Simpson estate would accept the Goldmans’ claim as creditors of the estate, which would be handled under Nevada law, as that was Simpson’s residence when he died.

Does Placing Assets in a Revocable Trust Shield Them from Judgment Creditors?

There are two details of note here. The first is that anyone who understands the basics of probate law could tell you the executor’s initial statement was little more than bluster. An executor should not refuse to pay a creditor who presents a lawful claim against a probate estate. If there are insufficient assets to pay all creditors–i.e., the estate is insolvent–then state law determines the order of priority for paying the decedent’s debts and expenses. Here in Florida, for example, holders of civil judgments like those arising from a wrongful death lawsuit are actually considered the lowest priority.

The second notable detail here is that Simpson reportedly transferred most of his remaining assets into a trust created a few months before his death. This trust reportedly owns several real estate holdings in Florida. You might be wondering, Does this mean Simpson’s estate must be probated in Florida?

The answer is likely no. As previously noted, Simpson was a Nevada resident when he died. A person’s probate estate is usually opened in the state of their residence. If the decedent owned real property in a different state, it may be necessary to open a secondary (or ancillary) probate proceeding in the other state. But if the property is part of a trust, that is generally unnecessary as the trust–rather than the decedent or their probate estate–is considered the owner.

At the same time, transferring property to a revocable trust during your lifetime will generally not shield those assets from creditors. So if someone obtains a civil judgment against you during your lifetime, they could still try to collect against your revocable trust after you die.

Contact Florida Probate Litigation Attorney Mark R. Manceri Today

While most probate estates will not have to worry about paying off an eight-figure civil judgment, just about every executor will face some challenges when it comes to settling the debts and expenses of a Florida probate estate. If you are involved in such an issue and need legal advice from a qualified Pompano Beach estate and trust litigation lawyer, contact the offices of Mark R. Manceri, P.A., today to schedule a consultation.



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