Dennis Hopper's Venice, Calif. Estate Hits Auction Block

Dennis Hopper's Venice, California mansion going on auctionThe opening salvo in late actor Dennis Hopper's estate battle is set to go, as his massive SoCal mansion hits the auction block Friday. The 15,500-square-foot property where he lived with his estranged wife is expected to fetch around $6.2 million.

The notoriously unpredictable actor, who starred in such classics as "Apocalypse Now" and "Blue Velvet" (as well as such critically-panned duds as "Super Mario Bros.") succumbed to a long battle with prostate cancer last May at the age of 74. However, his highly publicized divorce from his fifth wife, Victoria Duffy, was still in the works at the time of his passing, leaving ownership of his estate up in the air.
The vast property in the Venice district of Los Angeles, which includes a 4,900 square-foot house designed by architect Brian Murphy and three townhouses designed by Frank Gehry, was the actor's home for more than 20 years. It lies just a few blocks from the Pacific and covers five parcels of land.

Hopper filed for divorce in January 2010, citing "irreconcilable differences," but the paperwork had not been settled by the time he died. Meanwhile, the couple's prenuptial agreement stated that Duffy would receive 25 percent of the fortune and a life insurance payout of $250,000. The contract was contingent on the couple living together at the time of his passing, which was technically true, since Duffy had moved into a separate house on the same property.

"The waters become muddy when a divorce is pending," said matrimonial lawyer to the stars, Raoul Felder, during a phone interview. Had the divorce been settled before his passing, she would get close to a third of the estate, he said.

Hopper's attorney, Joe Mannis, said that he fully expects Duffy to challenge the ruling and claim that she and Hopper were still living together at the time of his passing.

But is this nightmare scenario solely the product of celebrity divorce blowouts? Not necessarily, according to Felder. In fact, he recommends that anyone with sizable assets, real estate included, should plan to protect themselves against even the most unlikely of breakups.

"All couples need a pre-nup. If you miss that boat, get a post-nuptial agreement," he said, before pausing. "And if you miss that -- well, say a prayer."

The estate is listed with Jane Gavens and Jade Mills of Coldwell Banker Previews International.

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