May 24, 2024


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Experts say OJ Simpson's death could improve the victims' families' chances of getting a big sentence

Experts say OJ Simpson's death could improve the victims' families' chances of getting a big sentence

Los Angeles – OJ Simpson He died Thursday Without paying the lion's share Verdict: $33.5 million A civil jury in California awarded favors to the families of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her boyfriend, Ron Goldman.

Acquitted in a criminal trial, Simpson was convicted by a jury in a 1997 manslaughter lawsuit.

Now the public is likely to get a closer look at Simpson's finances, and the families will likely have a better chance of raising money – if there is any to be raised.

Simpson “died without atonement. We don't know what he had or where he is or who's in control. We'll take where we want,” said David Cook, an attorney who has been seeking civil judgment for the Goldman family since 2008. And continue to do so.”

Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman in undated photos.

CBS News

How things might go in the next few months

Whether or not he left behind a will, and whatever that document says, Simpson's assets will almost certainly have to go through what's known as the court probate process before his four children or other intended heirs can collect any of them.

Different states have different probate laws. Generally, the case is filed in the state where the person was living when he or she died. In Simpson's case, that's Nevada. But if there were significant assets in California or Florida, where he also lived at different times, separate cases could arise there.

Nevada law states that an estate must go through the courts if its assets exceed $20,000, or if there is any estate, and it must do so within 30 days of death. If the family fails to submit documents, the creditors themselves can start the process.

Once the case goes to court, creditors who say they are owed money can then demand a piece of the assets. The Goldman and Brown families will be at least on equal footing with other creditors, and will likely have a stronger claim.

Under California law, judgment creditors such as plaintiffs in a wrongful death case are considered to have secured debts and have priority over creditors with unsecured debts. They are in a better position to receive their wages than they were before the defendant's death.

Experts weigh in

Arash Sadat, a Los Angeles attorney who specializes in property disputes, says it's “100%” better for the plaintiff if the debtor is deceased and his or her money is in the will.

He said his firm conducted a jury trial where its clients received a $9 million jury award that the debtor appealed and postponed indefinitely.

“He did everything in his power to avoid paying this debt,” Sadat said. “Three or four years later, he died. Within weeks, the estate cut a check for $12 million. That's the $9 million plus interest that had accumulated over that time.”

The executor or administrator of the estate has a much greater incentive to discharge debts than a living person. “That's why you see things like this happening,” Sadat said.

But of course this does not mean that payment will be imminent.

“I think it's going to be difficult for them to collect the money,” attorney Christopher Melcher said. “We don't know what OJ has managed to earn over the years.”

Neither Sadat nor Melcher are involved in the Simpson estate or in the case before the court.

Contents of Simpson's estate

Simpson said he lives solely on his own and the NFL's pensions. Hundreds of valuable possessions were seized as part of the jury prize, and Simpson was forced to auction off his Heisman Trophy, which brought $230,000.

Goldman's father, Fred Goldman, the lead plaintiff, always said the issue was never the money, it was just about holding Simpson accountable. He said in a statement Thursday that with Simpson's death, “the hope for true accountability has ended.”

There are ways a person can use trusts created during their lifetime and other ways to ensure that their chosen heirs receive their assets after death. If this trust is irrevocable, it can be particularly strong.

But transfers of assets to others, made to avoid creditors, can be considered fraudulent, and claimants like the Goldman and Brown families could file separate civil lawsuits that bring those assets into dispute.

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