Protecting a Hollywood Legend
Mickey Rooney, a Hollywood legend with more than 300 films to his credit, was living in poverty near the end of his life as family members in charge of his affairs misappropriated his financial assets. A stepson and his wife were accused of converting millions of dollars of Mr. Rooney's assets to their own use over a 10-year period.
Members of Holland & Knight's Private Wealth Services Group assisted Mr. Rooney in securing court protection in 2011 from his stepson and stepson's wife in response to repeated verbal, emotional and financial abuse, and the withholding of food and medicine. The firm helped Mr. Rooney get a court-appointed conservator for the remaining three years of his life and also blocked the stepson from using Mr. Rooney's name and image for commercial purposes. In 2013, the firm won a stipulated $2.8 million judgment in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the stepson as well as the return of memorabilia and other personal property.
After being rescued from the abusive situation, Mr. Rooney spoke out on the issue of elder abuse. Holland & Knight team members accompanied him to Washington, where he testified at a hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging and endorsed legislation to protect senior citizens.
When Mr. Rooney died in 2014 at the age of 93, his will bequeathed his entire estate to a different stepson and his wife who took care of him during the last years of his life. Mr. Rooney left only $18,000 in assets, but the intellectual property rights to his name had potential value. The will was challenged by seven of Mr. Rooney's eight natural children, as well as his estranged wife from his eighth marriage. The Holland & Knight team prevailed against the challenges and submitted his will to probate in August 2015. The income earned from his intellectual property will be used to repay the debts of his estate and for the benefit of the stepson and his wife who were the estate's beneficiaries.
As a result of the Rooney case, Holland & Knight's Trusts, Estates and Fiduciary Dispute Resolution Team founded The Mickey Rooney Elder Abuse Pro Bono Project, which helps protect senior citizens from becoming victims of financial abuse.
In 2014, Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida honored Holland & Knight as the "Law Firm of the Year" for its pro bono efforts to protect the elderly, as well as its work on behalf of veterans.