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Missing man's case in Florida probate court

A complex probate case is winding its way through South Florida courts, with a judge granting control of a man's estate to an attorney even as friends and family wonder if the man is dead or alive.

The case started on June 19 when a 35-year-old multimillionaire from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, left home in inclement weather to take out his fishing boat. About five hours later, the U.S. Coast Guard reported that the boat had run aground, its lights still on with the engine still running. The man's cellphone and wallet were on the boat, but the Coast Guard found no signs of him, and foul play was not suspected. After a 72-hour search, officials declared him missing.

Still, there are some who suspect the man might have staged his disappearance to avoid problems. Reports state he faced marital problems, the threat of bankruptcy and various legal issues, including accusations that he had hacked into an computer belonging to his uncle.

Soon after he was declared missing, a judge in Broward County Probate Court heard from a variety of people, all staking claim to the man's estate. The man, who had made a fortune in oil, left behind mounting bills and an estate worth an estimated $100 million.

The attorney of the man's wife told the story of the trouble the man faced. The man's mother and a host of lawyers, all representing clients that are tied to the man through investments, trusts or lawsuits were also present. Both the mother and wife said they worried his money would be frittered away in legal fees.

After hearing all arguments, the judge decided that one of the man's former lawyers would wade through the man's bills and legal issues. No decision was made as to who would make decisions regarding $40 million in real estate holdings or the man's interests in soccer and basketball teams in Israel. Those investments left the family in danger of bankruptcy, some said.

Source: Miami Herald, "Skepticism in air at hearing over missing Florida multimillionaire," Julie K. Brown, June 28, 2012

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