It is, unfortunately, a tale that is all too commonly heard: a wealthy older person who falls in love and marries a much younger person, who then manages to have the will changed to benefit them prior to the older person’s death, forcing the relatives to contest the will.
Edward Bazinet was a 73-year-old entrepreneur who amassed a $100 million fortune selling holiday miniatures, and Jordan was a real estate broker 43 years his junior. Within months of their meeting on the street in 2014, the two had moved in together. And just ten months before November 2017 death, the couple reportedly wed in a secret civil ceremony.
But Bazinet’s family says Jordan was just using the older man and will now contest the will that would leave the younger man some $32 million.
Bazinet’s sister, Maureen Beck, claims Jordan neglected her brother, withheld his medications, diverted the funds to his own relatives and interacted “with Ed in a controlling manner which far more resembled abuse,” according to court papers.
“I’m worried,” she wrote to her brother in 2016. “I hope he is willing to live with you without owning your new apartment. Setting up a situation where he benefits upon your death with such a large gift seems unwise on a number of levels.” She maintains Jordan oversaw a number of unusual real-estate deals for Bazinet, including two apartments at 100 Barclay for $12 million, and a $15 million condo in Tribeca.
Bazinet, who was featured in Robert Frank’s Richistan, started his company, Department 56, in 1976 and sold it for $270 million in the 1990s. His popular ceramic figurines included The Original Snow Village, Dickens Village, North Pole, and the Snowbabies series.
According to Beck, after he started seeing Jordan, her brother became increasingly isolated from his family and suddenly changed plans for his estate—moving assets from a namesake foundation to his young husband. For his part, Jordan says he supported Bazinet through alcoholism and failing health visiting him daily at the NYU Langone Medical Center, until Beck had him moved to a Minneapolis hospital “in the middle of the night.”
“I cared for him because he was my husband and I loved him,” Jordan stated in the papers filed in court.
Bazinet initially left $500,000 to Jordan but later doubled that amount and added money, art and property to his bequest. Shortly before his death, though, a nearly incapacitated Bazinet allegedly signed papers canceling the changes to his will.
He was hospitalized in 2012, reportedly after a bipolar episode in which he spent more than $20 million on soap, hanger covers, art and furniture in a massive five-day spending spree.
Bazinet became increasingly isolated from his family and transformed his decades-old estate plan, shifting the bulk of his assets from his namesake foundation to Jordan, his sister said as part of the court papers.
Bazinet, whose company is called Department 56, initially left $500,000 to Jordan before doubling the bequest — then later expanded Jordan’s share of the will to include money, art and property.
“I’m worried,” Beck wrote to Bazinet in November 2016. “I hope he is willing to live with you without owning your new apartment. Setting up a situation where he benefits upon your death with such a large gift seems unwise on a number of levels.”
Jordan — who could inherit $32 million if the changes to Bazinet’s will are allowed to stand — neglected Bazinet, may have withheld his medications, diverted the businessman’s funds to his own relatives and interacted “with Ed in a controlling manner which far more resembled abuse,” Beck alleges in court papers.
Jordan says that when Bazinet became ill in September 2017, Jordan visited daily at NYU Langone Medical Center, until Beck transferred him to a Minneapolis hospital “in the middle of the night.”
A nearly incapacitated Bazinet then allegedly signed papers revoking the changes to his will, including his bequests to Jordan — who moved Bazinet back to New York just a month before his death, court papers show.
These are not the only examples of famous families who find themselves having to contest the will. Anna Nicole Smith famously met billionaire J. Howard Marshall in 1994. The 89-year-old oil tycoon married the 26-year-old model, but when he died a year later, he hadn’t included Anna Nicole in his will. A long-winded court battle in which Anna Nicole contested the will ensued.
At Estate Battles, we often see similar battles play out – though often over far less money. A new friend or spouse who influences an older person to change their will is a very common reason to contest the will.
If you’re worried about a loved one, would like to contest the will or would like to revisit your will, contact us today. We offer a FREE, 10-minute phone consultation.