Dennis Hopper Heirs Sell to Give Widow Hell

Dennis Hopper's 15,500-square-foot compound remains the center of a heated court battle between his estranged wife and his adult children from previous marriages. The price on the Venice, Calif. property has been slashed for a second time, to $4.799 million -- down nearly 25 percent from its original July list price of $6.245 million.

The move, spearheaded by his eldest daughter, Marin, came within days of widow Victoria Duffy filing a $45-million lawsuit against the Easy Rider's estate.

Hopper, who filed for divorce in January 2010, citing "irreconcilable differences" with Duffy, died at home in May from liver complications and prostate cancer before the divorce was finalized. He was 74 and received a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame in March.

Duffy, 43, accused the actor, who obtained his diagnosis in October 2009, of trying to engineer their separation so that she would not receive anything. She also claims that Marin and others coerced Hopper into filing the divorce by taking advantage of him when he was legally incapable of managing his affairs.
The couple's 1996 prenuptial agreement stated Duffy, who was wife No. 5 for Hopper, would receive 25 percent of the fortune and a life insurance payout of $250,000 provided the couple were still living together at the time of his passing, reported HousingWatch. Whether or not the the couple was living together is at the center of the
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dispute. Duffy says yes since at the time of death, and still, she lives in a guest house on the same property after a failed attempt by Hopper to have a judge boot her out earlier this year.

The property, pictured below, consists of a 4,896-square-foot corrugated steel main house, three townhouses designed by starchitect Frank Gehry, a hundred-year-old cottage, a lap pool and a pool house. The barn-style 3-bedroom, 3-bath main house, completed in 1987 by architect Brian Murphy, can be purchased separately from the rest of the compound for $3.2 million, according to the listing, which features 32 photos. The three townhouses, built in 1981 and purchased between 1997 and 2008, range in size from 1,143 to 1,330 square feet.

"With its undulating aluminum and steel exterior, the main residence is an ode to the industrial look," said Jade Mills of Beverly Hills-based Coldwell Banker Previews International, who has the listing with Jane Gavens. "This property represents a truly rare find. It is an artist's 'dream-come-true' with its light-filled interiors and its artistic heritage," reported Reuters. Interior photos by Simon Berlyn, shown below, reveal an industrial-style loft with wood beams, skylights, concrete and glass block floors.

Marin Hopper, who is five years older than her stepmother, claims in court papers that Duffy is "wrongfully possessing and withholding ... control" of the compound, which was valued earlier this year at just over $6 million. According to the papers, Duffy was offered a different home, one that is a mere 1,176 square feet in Brentwood that she co-owns with the Hopper trust, but she refused to move out of the Venice property, which lies just a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean and covers five parcels of land. The Brentwood home's back yard is across from a smelly horse stable, she says. (See the photos at TMZ).

"It is all about establishing territorial right," says New York attorney Sari M. Friedman, who has represented celebrities in high-conflict divorces. "If someone feels it puts them in an adverserial position to get one out, they'll do that. All these parties knew all along if dad drops dead this is the scenario they'd face."

Unresolved divorces can spill over into a fight among heirs, says Andrew Mayoras, co-author of "Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!"

"When fights are ugly like this it is about emotions. If you let your emotions control you, the only ones who will win are the attorneys. You have to put your estate planning in place to help prevent fights like this."

The trust administrators say they need to sell the property in order to pay off Hopper's debts. Before the actor's death, he had offered her $5,000-a-month in spousal support and claimed in court papers that it was all he could afford, as he had been unable to work and had only $300,280 in liquid assets. But the judge ordered that Duffy receive $12,000 a month, according to the Boston Herald.

"In high net worth divorce cases people try to make it look like they have less money so they end up paying less to their soon to be ex-spouse," says defense attorney Stuart P. Slotnick, whose New York firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney has represented Anthony Quinn and Bryant Gumbel's wife in divorce proceedings, and represented Mrs. Donald Trump for her pre-nup. Regarding the price drop on the Hopper estate, he says, "It is possible there are ulterior motives in such a significant drop in price, but it needs to be investigated."

In March, Hopper also tried to cut his 7-year-old daughter's share of the estate from 40 percent to 25 percent. Under California law, however, the amendment may not be valid, because changes to an estate plan are severely restricted when a divorce is pending, reported TMZ.

In her lawsuit filed October 14, Duffy says she wants $10 million for defamation of character from the suffering that she claims she has endured during the divorce battle. Also, she says that she needs an additional $4,000 per month in expenses to care for the family's horse.

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