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Feud over Ray Brandt’s succession and estate ends

On Behalf of | Apr 3, 2024 | Trusts, Estates & Succession

When Ray Brandt of the Ray Brandt Auto Group died in 2019, the event launched a family feud that didn’t settle until 2023 – and only then after numerous twists and turns that threatened the car dealership magnate’s legacy.

Now, all parties involved in the dispute have agreed to a settlement that puts to rest any further estate challenges. A joint statement read, “All parties involved are pleased with the opportunity to move forward together and continue to grow the successes built by the late Ray Brandt.”

A changed will, and an estate challenge

The dispute essentially put Brandt’s widow, Jessica, against Marc Milano, the principal of Archbishop High School, who was named as trustee over the dealership and the rest of the estate. 

On Milano’s side of the dispute were Brandt’s adopted grandchildren and heirs, Alexis and Zachary Hartline, who were made the beneficiaries of his extensive estate in his final will. On Jessica Brandt’s end of the battle was Todd Dempster, Ray Brandt Auto Group’s chief operating officer. A “no-contest” clause in her late husband’s will kept Jessica Brandt from suing directly, but she bankrolled Dempster’s suit against the Hartlines.

At issue was whether or not Brandt’s 2019 will – signed merely days before his death – was valid. That will removed his widow as his business successor and put the dealership under Marc Milano’s control, with a benefit set aside for Jessica during her lifetime and the bulk going to the Hartlines. A 2010 will had left Jessica Brandt in full control of both the estate and the dealership until her death. 

Over the last several years, both sides have accused the other of things like “financial chicanery” and dipping into the auto dealership’s funds for personal use to defamation of character, and earlier attempts to settle the dispute failed.

In May 2023, however, the two sides agreed that Jessica Brandt would remain the dealership’s chief executive officer, while Milano would remain in control of the $300 million estate.

Situations like this illustrate the complexities of estate litigation, and why experienced legal guidance is so necessary.