The Orange County (CA) Public Administrator’s Office has dealt with its share of unusual inheritances. There was the protection they once had to arrange for a $500,000 ring. And there was the pet eel. But the upcoming estate sale of Gerald Willits, a Buena Park man who died in August 2014 and left 69 cars in his yard, is “very unusual,” according to Elizabeth Henderson, chief deputy public administrator for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. “A lot of times, we get a couple of cars; occasionally we’ll get a fancy sports car,” she said. “But this is massively interesting.” And not only because of the cars.
The one thing that’s lacking in this story is a legally recognized beneficiary, according to The Orange County Register. “A Buena Park plumber's death left behind 69 cars and one big mystery,” tells the story of the cars’ owner, who created three wills which all disinherited his only child, Melinda Willits Sanchez, a resident of Hawaii.
The most recent will designates a California charity as the beneficiary. However, this one isn’t considered valid because it’s a copy, which leaves the 1996 will in play. That one has the estate going to his parents, who were already deceased. As a result, the county is trying to settle an estate that is basically “up for grabs.” Several people are making claims.
Gerald Willits was a plumber and, in addition to all of the vehicles, he also owned four homes that together are worth at least $1.2 million. Willits was a pack rat who was cited for trash, overgrown trees, peeling paint, a lack of running water, and housing inoperative vehicles on his property. He was eccentric and a very private person.
The auto auction was scheduled for September 1 and was expected to net $60,000 to $150,000 from 110 “lots.” This sale includes a 1930 Ford Model A Roadster and a 1965 Volkswagen van. There will be dozens of Fords, Chevys, rusted flathead V8s, as well as an experimental aircraft.
Many people believe that the Public Administrator is trying to get the estate, but that never happens. That office is entitled to a maximum of 4% of the estate’s value under California law.
Don’t have your loved ones fighting over your massive collection of cars or other assets of your estate. Why not take advantage of a no-charge initial consultation with an estate planning attorney? We can help you draft a legal will and other estate planning documents to ensure that your wishes are carried out properly.
Reference: The Orange County Register (August 17, 2015) “A Buena Park plumber's death left behind 69 cars and one big mystery”