Family Battles Over Actress Anne Heche's Estate Could Have Been Avoided

On Aug. 11, 2022 actress Anne Heche died unexpectedly at age 53. The single mother of two sons had no will or trust, and now, just months after her death, three legal actions involving her estate are pending. Battles over her estate could have been avoided with advanced planning.

The dispute is between Heche’s 20-year-old son Homer Laffoon, and her ex-boyfriend James Tupper, who is the father and legal guardian of Heche’s youngest son, Atlas Tupper, 13.

Laffoon has petitioned the court because he wishes to be appointed the administrator of his mother’s estate, which could be considerable. Estate administration includes locating and collecting assets, distributing assets to beneficiaries, and other duties. Laffoon has also filed a petition seeking the appointment of a neutral third party as ad litem (an individual who advocates and makes decisions on behalf of a minor during a legal action) for Atlas.

James Tupper objects to Laffoon’s petition for appointment. As the father to Heche’s youngest son, Tupper would manage his son’s share of the inheritance of Heche’s estate. However, it is not clear if Heche would have wished for Tupper to manage the inheritance because the couple separated years ago.

Tupper, who also petitioned to be the administrator of the estate, claims Heche sent him an email in 2011 with the subject line “will.” According to Tupper, in the email, Heche said all of her assets should go to Tupper to raise the two boys.

The courts will decide what happens in this case, which could have been avoided with some basic estate planning on Heche’s part, especially considering the complexity and rumored size of her estate.

Who needs a will?

The legal battle surrounding Heche’s estate serves as a reminder of the importance of creating a will. Everyone, regardless of estate size, could benefit from a will or an estate plan of some sort.

A will explains what the testator (the person who made the will) wants to have done with his or her property following his or her death. A will can also be:

  • A document that revokes or revises another will;
  • A document that nominates a guardian; or
  • A document that expressly excludes or limits the rights of an heir to inherit the decedent’s property.

While the document does not need to be in a particular format, it does need to be:

  • In writing;
  • Signed by the testator or, at the direction of the testator, signed on the testator’s behalf in the testator’s conscious presence; and
  • Signed by at least two individuals within a reasonable amount of time witnessing the signing of either the will or the testator’s acknowledgment of that signature or the will.

Help is available

Although people may not have an estate as complex as Heche’s, everyone, regardless of their income or assets, should have a will or estate plan in place. To speak to an estate planning attorney, please call 586-726-1000 or visit our website.