Comedian Pauly Shore filed a lawsuit claiming that his brother, Peter Shore, has been using unscrupulous behavior and committing undue influence over their 79-year old mother, Mitzi Shore. Mitzi suffers from Parkinson’s disease and other neurological problems. Reportedly, she’s been in the care of Peter (Pauly’s older brother), but Pauly has grown increasingly concerned for her well-being, according to his lawsuit filed earlier this month in the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Pauly, Peter and their mother were, until recently, the three directors of The Comedy Store, one of Hollywood’s most famous comedy clubs. It’s featured distinguished comedians such as Johnny Carson, Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, George Carlin, and Robin Williams (and — even better — it’s reportedly haunted by a ghost that plays pranks). Mitzi won the club in a divorce in 1973 and has owned it ever since.
But, with her recent physical decline, Pauly and Peter have taken over the club’s operations, with Peter managing the finances and Pauly booking new talent. And this has apparently been the source of the feud.
Pauly asked Peter to turn over about three years worth of tax returns and financial records, to which Peter responded by hiring an attorney and firing Pauly from the Board of Directors. Pauly then brought the undue influence lawsuit, claiming that Peter accomplished this by taking advantage of their infirm mother. Pauly points to a letter sent to Peter from last summer, written by Mitzi’s attorneys, that raised concerns about how Mitzi was being treated and her financial security.
It’s interesting that Pauly took this legal path rather than filing for conservatorship (or guardianship as it is called in many states). The heirs of Brooke Astor, Peter Falk, and many others used this route when they became concerned of undue influence over their famous relatives. Protective proceedings such as guardianships and conservatorships are supposed to help elderly and vulnerable adults who are at risk of exploitation, undue influence, neglect, or otherwise need help making decisions.
Proving undue influence is never easy. Pauly’s attorneys will have to show that Peter abused his position of trust and confidence with his mother and took advantage of her.
It’s too bad when family squabbles over money turn into lawsuits like this one; they happen far too frequently to rich and modest families alike. But at least stories like this one can teach other families how not to end up the same way.
Families who watch carefully over their elderly loved ones can often prevent the type of unscrupulous behavior that Pauly claims Peter has been guilty of. It’s never easy to suspect someone of wrongdoing — especially a family member — but it does happen, more often than people realize. And awareness is the first step towards prevention.
When that doesn’t work, it’s important to speak with an experienced attorney and learn your legal rights so you can help protect loved ones and hopefully prevent a family feud in court.
Posted by: Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founder and shareholder of The Center for Probate Litigation and The Center for Elder Law in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law. You can email him at blog @ trialandheirs.com.