Estate of natural health industry icon estimated to be worth over $800 million dollars
Complaint Alleges Bigamy, Undue Influence, Elder Abuse and Lack of Capacity
DOUGLAS COUNTY, Nev., Sept. 14, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Gerald Kessler, a pioneer in the natural products industry, who founded the supplement company Natural Organics, Inc., passed away this past March at the age of 80. The family of Gerald Kessler announced that they have filed a lawsuit in the Ninth Judicial District Court in Nevada against Melanie Kay Williams (known by her stage name, Meadow Williams), as Trustee, and the Gerald A. Kessler Revocable Trust, alleging that Meadow Williams unlawfully, for all intents and purposes, manipulated and unduly influenced Gerald to execute new estate planning documents that cut the Kessler family out of the estate in order for her to receive nearly all of the estate assets.
"The accusations contained in the 136 page court petition by Gerald Kessler's children and grandchildren Marshall Kessler, Sheree Kessler, Craig Kessler, Steven Kessler, Kaleigh Kessler, Krystal Kessler, Michael Kessler and Shawn Kessler, assert that the 2013 Trust Amendment to the Gerald A. Kessler Trust is void and that Meadow Williams, 31 years younger than Gerald Kessler, controlled and manipulated him," said David J. Callahan, III, attorney for the family of Gerald Kessler.
According to the complaint, "on November 6, 1996, Gerald Kessler created the Gerald A. Kessler Revocable Trust. Based upon all previous estate planning documents and discussions the Kessler family believes that the then heirs-at-law of Gerald Kessler were the sole and exclusive beneficiaries of the various trusts established by Gerald Kessler. While the full value of the estate is not known at this time, the estate is believed to be worth over $800 million dollars."
"Gerald Kessler was a visionary business man, but, like many of us, he was a man who was afraid to be alone. Meadow Williams, an actress, took advantage of Mr. Kessler's fears and manipulated him into not only funding her movie career during his life, but manipulated him into making her essentially the sole beneficiary of his estate," said Callahan.
"The lawsuit alleges that in November 2002, Meadow was introduced to Gerald Kessler through a mutual friend. Shortly after they met, Meadow moved into Kessler's main house at the Circle K Ranch, the stunning corporate retreat built by McDonald's empire builder Ray Kroc near Santa Barbara. At the ranch, he employed a full time cook, driver, housekeeper and groundskeeper so he would be surrounded by people. Once there, she began a patterned plan of isolation to separate Gerald Kessler from long-time friends, employees, and family," added Callahan.
According to the complaint, "after meeting Meadow, Gerald slowly stopped visiting with most friends, family, and employees. Shortly thereafter, Gerald was diagnosed with Hepatic Encephalopathy which can cause confusion and permanent changes in personality, behavior, and mood. In 2010 Gerald Kessler was convinced to divorce his first wife, Betty, so that Gerald could marry Meadow. Their marriage application recites that Meadow was divorced on March 14, 1994 in Los Angeles. However, court records reveal that Meadow, who was previously known as Melanie Spadafino, only filed for divorce on February 15, 1994. Although her husband Mark Spadafino responded to the divorce complaint a month later, no further action was taken to finalize the divorce. As of today's date, their divorce still remains open and "pending" in Los Angeles County."
"The law is clear on this point – if you're married to one person, you can't marry another, even if you were unaware that the divorce was not final," added Callahan.
"Sadly, even after the attempted marriage, Meadow continued to isolate Gerald from his family, friends and even caretakers. In 2012, Meadow moved Gerald from the Circle K ranch to a home previously purchased by Gerald in Malibu, where there was no one to take care of Gerald and keep him company – no full-time staff or assistance. This left him entirely dependent upon Meadow Williams for food, water, and medicine. She would frequently leave him alone in the home, bedridden, with no means of movement or nutrition due to his physical limitations caused by his illness," said Callahan.
According to the complaint, "His mental infirmity increased as a result of his son, Bryan Kessler's death on March 25, 2013. On August 13, 2013, during this period of immense grief and confusion, he allegedly amended the Gerald A. Kessler Revocable Trust. The 2013 Amendment gave Gerald's purported wife, Meadow Williams control over the vast majority of the assets in the Trust through her status as Trustee. It further established her as, essentially, the sole and exclusive beneficiary of the estate, with the balance scheduled to pass to her brother, Wade Williams. The Plaintiffs are nearly entirely removed from the Estate through this new 2013 Amendment. The Trust further provided her with nearly blanket immunity for anything she may do in her capacity as Trustee. The 2013 Amendment created a vastly different dispositive scheme of Gerald Kessler's separate property than any of the other numerous inter vivos trust documents created by Gerald Kessler."
The lawsuit further alleges that "following the execution of the 2013 Amendment, the treatment of Gerald Kessler by Meadow started to decline from its already abysmal state. One of the saddest examples comes from November 2014, when Gerald contacted his grandson, Marshall Kessler, and asked him to come from New York and visit him. When Marshall Kessler arrived, Meadow had already left for Tennessee on a Thanksgiving vacation and left Gerald alone with no means of providing himself with sufficient nutrition and care. Marshall Kessler agreed to his grandfather's pleas for him not to leave and stayed until Gerald's death in March of 2015. During his stay, Marshall witnessed the treatment of Gerald by Meadow and failings in helping him with his medication, sufficient nutrition and taking him to his medical appointments which exacerbated his declining medical condition."
"A simple view of her multiple social media accounts reveals not a single mention of her purported husband during his life, during his prolonged hospitalization where he was fighting for his life, and, ultimately, not a single mention of his death. These accounts in fact show, less than two weeks following his death, her prepping for a small role in a new movie 'Officer Downe'. The absence of a public connection between Gerald and Meadow, on so many social media platforms maintained by her, aptly underscores the concerns and ultimately the allegations made by the family in this lawsuit," stated Callahan.
The filing states that "the family of Gerald Kessler believes the 2013 Amendment is void on various legal grounds, including undue influence, lack of capacity, elder abuse and the unlawful marriage between Gerald and Meadow."
"It's sad that Gerald Kessler's life ended in the fashion that it did. He was a visionary, pioneer, and an entrepreneur who truly accomplished the American dream. As a one-time orphan he was a true self-made man who built a multi-national empire from the ground up. The family is committed to fight, in a fashion that Gerald would be proud, to ensure that the legacy of Gerald Kessler will not be one of a victim. We are confident the courts will agree and find that the 2013 Amendment does not represent the true wishes of Gerald Kessler," concluded Callahan.
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