Dennis Hopper Funeral Today; Estate Battle Looms

Actor's estranged widow Victoria is expected to fight over his estate.

June 01, 2010, 12:09 PM

June 2, 2010— -- Dennis Hopper is expected to be laid to rest in New Mexico today, but the divorce battle between the actor and his estranged wife Victoria Duffy-Hopper is far from over.

Hopper, the iconoclastic star of "Easy Rider" and other films, died Saturday of advanced prostate cancer at age 74.

His funeral is scheduled for noon today at a church in Rancho de Taos, an enclave of Taos, New Mexico. Hopper owned a home in Taos and was often quoted saying he wanted to be buried in the picturesque town that is home to many artists and celebrities.

At the time of his death, the actor was engaged in a bitter divorce battle with his fifth wife, Duffy-Hopper. Now, it appears the fight will move from divorce court to probate court, where his widow is expected to mount a challenge for a portion of his estimated $30 million estate.

"We are very saddened to hear of Dennis Hopper's death," Duffy-Hopper's attorney Mirka Royston said in a statement to "The dissolution case is now at end, and the matter will proceed to the Probate Court."

Before Hopper's death, Duffy-Hopper had been trying to reach a settlement in the divorce case. Then it appeared the case was moving forward, with Hopper's attorney telling the court early last week that his client was competent and the court ordering the deposition to move forward. That changed on Thursday, when his lawyer returned to court, saying Hopper's condition had worsened to the point where he could no longer speak. Two days later, Hopper died.

Now it looks like the two sides will go to battle over the estate.

Hopper's attorney Joe Mannis appears ready for the fight.

"She said she would challenge it, and I fully expect her to do so," he was quoted saying on TMZ.

According to court documents, Duffy-Hopper's prenuptial agreement entitled her to 25 percent of his estate and $250,000 of a $1 million life insurance policy as long as the couple remained married and living together.

Hopper filed for divorce in January while battling prostate cancer, but the couple was still married at the time of his death.

The question remains, though, whether they were still living together.

Duffy-Hopper, who was married to Hopper for 14 years, is likely to argue yes. The couple lived in side-by-side houses on his property in Venice, Calif.

"Personally I think she's going to have a real uphill battle," Andrew Mayoras, a Detroit-area probate attorney told "I think it's a longshot at best.

"He wanted her out of the house," Mayoras' wife and law partner Danielle Mayoras told

In previous court filings, Hopper argued that his estranged wife was a "threat to his life."

But, in April, a judge ordered Hopper to continue giving Duffy-Hopper a place to live on his property.

"The judge allowing her to remain on the property is one thing," Andrew Mayoras said. "But it's the interpretation of the prenuptial agreement that is going to govern in probate court."

Also in April, Hopper was ordered to pay Duffy-Hopper $12,000 a month in spousal and child support. The couple has a 7-year-old daughter, Galen.

Andrew Mayoras said a probate judge is likely to address the issue of child support first, allowing Duffy-Hopper to continue receiving some financial assistance, even while the estate is tied up in court for months, possibly years.

In the most recent court ruling on May 12, a judge denied Hopper's motion to exclude Galen from his life insurance policy, entitling her to a portion of the remaining $750,000, along with Hopper's three older children, Marin, Ruthanna and Henry.

Duffy-Hopper has accused his three adult children from previous marriages of masterminding the divorce and trying to exclude her from his estate.

"Victoria's prime objective is to make sure she can support her child," her lawyer told last month. "The adult children are taking control of this case and attempting to limit any funds that go to Victoria or Galen, and it really is quite sad. It's the stuff that movies are made of."

"The adult children are clamoring to secure as much money for themselves as possible," Royston said.

The Mayorases, who have written about other estate battles of the rich and famous in their book "Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights," say Duffy-Hopper is also likely to argue Hopper's "competency" when he made his estate plan and whether his adult children had "undue influence" on him at the time.

Hopper said in previous filings that he had already set up estate for Galen and his three other adult children to receive a "substantial portion."

"Even if he meets the test for mental competency, Victoria could still argue he that he had been unduly influenced," Andrew said.

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