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Tankleff Stands to Inherit Millions
By Joseph Demma
November 2, 1988
Martin Tankleff, the Belle Terre youth charged with murdering his parents in September, is to receive the major share of their estate, according to the terms of their wills filed in Suffolk Surrogate Court.
However, under state law he would lose his rights to the estate if he is convicted of the murders. And the lawyer for the Tankleff estate has filed a document with the court indicating that Martin Tankleff's sister, Shari Rother, who is to receive a much smaller part of the estate, may contest the wills.
The 17-year-old high school student was left the family's home and all his parents' business interests, the wills show. The value of his share is unknown, but it is estimated in the millions of dollars.
The remainder of the estate, including the proceeds of a $500,000 life insurance policy and personal property, is to go into a trust to be set up at Hofstra University. In that trust, $400,000 will be set aside to provide income for a Hofstra scholarship fund; Rother and her brother, who was adopted at birth, will each receive annual income from other portions of the trust, the value of which has yet to be determined.
Since the deaths of her father and stepmother, Arlene Tankleff, Rother, 40, of Port Jefferson, has hired Harvey Besunder, a Riverhead attorney. Besunder said yesterday that Rother is still considering how to proceed in the case.
"This is strictly a matter of her [Rother] having counsel during the course of events," Besunder said, adding, "Don't read anything more into this than there actually is."
According to a document filed with the Surrogate Court last week, Myron Fox, the attorney who drew and filed the wills, said that Rother previously had consented to the will being executed as drawn, but that he was advised by Besunder that "the possibility exists that Mrs. Rother would like to withdraw" that consent. Fox failed to respond to requests for comment.
Martin Tankleff was arrested Sept. 7 and charged with second-degree murder in the death of his mother and the attempted murder of his father. Both had been bludgeoned and stabbed. The father was taken to University Hospital at Stony Brook, where he remained in a coma until his death Oct. 6. The son has since been charged with a second murder count and is free in $1 million bail secured by members of the Tankleff family. He is living with Rother, who has steadfastly maintained he is innocent.
An accounting of the estate has not yet been filed with the Surrogate Court, but several sources familiar with the family estimated yesterday that the estate is worth several million dollars, with the Belle Terre home alone valued at more than $500,000.
The Tankleffs' wills, dated Jan. 31, 1985, do not specify what would become of the house and business interests if Martin Tankleff lost his claim to them. But lawyers said yesterday that if Martin is convicted, Rother would be able to claim her father's interests as though her father had died without a will.
Robert Gottlieb, Martin Tankleff's lawyer, declined comment yesterday on whether his client knew the contents of the wills before his parents were killed.
Assistant District Attorney Edward Jablonski has said that Tankleff killed his parents because they had spoiled his summer in a number of ways, including limiting his use of a boat and allowing him to drive only the family's older car, a 1978 Lincoln, to school. He has said Tankleff was also upset because the parents had arranged to have someone stay at the house with him while they took a planned cruise and trip to Florida.
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