Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Daughter: Attorney took advantage of my dad's will

By Stephenie Steitzer
Enquirer Contributor

        COVINGTON — The daughter of a deceased Northern Kentucky home remodeler is suing former Kenton County Attorney John Elfers, claiming he took advantage of her father to benefit from his multimillion-dollar estate.

        Bridget Hofler-Saunders of Independence filed a civil suit this month in Kenton Circuit Court, saying the will of her father, William T. Hofler, was changed two months before his death as a result of “undue influence” by Mr. Elfers.

        Mr. Elfers referred questions to Charles Shaffner, the attorney representing the estate.

        Mr. Hofler, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in January, changed his will on March 30, excluding Ms. Hofler-Saunders from any part of the estate. Mr. Hofler died May 19 at age 75.

        Ms. Hofler-Saunders said she believes Mr. Elfers and others named in the suit took advantage of her ill father, who had only a third-grade education and put more trust in people with higher educational levels. She said her father was aggressively being treated with chemotherapy and the painkiller OxyContin and could not have been of “sound mind and memory'' to change his will in March.

        Mr. Elfers served as Kenton County attorney for more than 20 years, but left office when he was defeated for re-election in 1993.

Daughter disinherited
               “They (Mr. Elfers and Mr. Hofler) owned property together and they knew each other for 30-plus years,” Ms. Hofler-Saunders said. “They were very good friends. I think my dad trusted him a great deal.”

        In the final will, Mr. Elfers was named co-executor and one of the beneficiaries of the estate. Mr. Hofler's stepson was awarded rings Mr. Hofler owned at his death and his son was awarded a portion totaling about $250,000.

        Mr. Hofler's will states that Ms. Hofler-Saunders was disinherited because of “personal reasons,” which Mr. Shaffner declined to ex plain.

        Ms. Hofler-Saunders said she believes the estate is worth between $3 million and $6 million, with another $1 million in a checking account. Mr. Shaffner said the estate is worth about $1.5 million total.

        The lawsuit also names as defendants Charles Grayson III, co-executor of the estate; Cathryn Wasson, Mr.

        Hofler's accountant; and Richard Hofler, Mr. Hofler's son.

        Ms. Hofler-Saunders said she had a normal relationship with her father and helped him find an apartment after he was diagnosed with cancer.

        “My dad was my dad,” Ms. Hofler-Saunders said. “He had put me through school. We were fairly close.”

        Mr. Shaffner, however, said he has several witnesses who will testify that “Bill and Bridget did not have a normal father-daughter relationship.”

        Mr. Shaffner also said Mr. Hofler was not heavily medicated when he changed his will.

        “The fact that he was diagnosed with cancer doesn't mean that he was suddenly incompetent,” Mr. Shaffner said. “In fact, I would say he was competent up until the last day.”

        A trial date has not been set.


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