TAMPA, Fla. – In a case where a ‘trust’ was drafted and executed in 2012, then revised several times through 2019 – and a last will and testament of 2015 revised – the story of a centenarian and his allegedly greedy family members emerge. A centenarian who likely died without knowing who among his relatives really loved him. Perhaps they all did but despised one another.
Stanley S. Bass died on January 10, 2020 at Tampa General Hospital. Listed as a “natural health doctor,” Stanley, in part, wrote diet and nutrition books. Stanley had several nephews, nieces, an “in-law” who was married or otherwise conjoined to his now deceased brother, and a rescue mission who looked after him in his late years. Initially, they were among his beneficiaries.
Unfortunately, Stanley’s trust of 2018, which amended original documents of 2012, were allegedly, sloppily handled by Tampa attorney R. Todd Burbine.
Burbine is accused of “legal malpractice” in Judith Liebman, Individually and as Trustee of the Stanley S. Bass Trust dated February 8, 2018 v. Howard A. Edelman, Individually and as Trustee of the Stanley S. Bass Trust dated September 24, 2019, Dean P. Edelman, Individually and as Trustee of the Stanley S. Bass Trust dated September 24, 2019, Arlene Locola, Individually and as Trustee of the Stanley S. Bass Trust dated September 24, 2019, and R. Todd Burbine.
This case is a Complaint and Declaratory Judgment, filed August 21, 2020 in Hillsborough County, Florida. The case’s Plaintiff, Judith Liebman, an “in-law” of Stanley, believes that Stanley “lacked capacity” and was “unduly influenced” by the Defendants and beneficiaries Howard A. and Dean P. Edelman and Arlene Locola when his trust was revised through an attorney of their personal choosing in 2019. The Edelmans are nephews and Locola is a niece of Stanley. It is purported that the attorney was not informed that Stanley already possessed a will and trust.
The Complaint and Declaratory Judgments seek to confirm the validity of the 2012 trust and pursue other avenues to legally determine the possibility of honoring Stanley S. Bass’s 2018 trust, which was intended to be just an amendment to the 2012 trust, of which Liebman is included as an heir. But that trust, too, suffered errors in its process, adding more work for the court to now untangle.
In the 2019 trust arranged by Howard and Dean Edelman and Arlene Locola, Liebman is cut out as a beneficiary, as is Suncoast Haven of Rest Rescue Mission of St. Petersburg, Florida. Nephews and nieces on the “Bass” side of the family were also cut out as beneficiaries, leaving only the Edelmans and Locola as recipients of Stanley’s $1.4 Million estates.
The Complaint and Declaratory Judgments list actions taken by the Edelmans in the last days of Stanley’s life:
On September 1, 2019, the Edelmans removed Stanley from an assisted living facility in Pasadena, Florida called The Fountains of Boca Ciega Bay, where Stanley was near his trusted friend, John Zucknovich, his physician, regular contacts at the “The Fountains” and the Suncoast Haven of Rest Rescue Mission. Plaintiff Judith Liebman is also cited as a part of Stanley’s supportive network. Liebman accuses Stanley’s nephews the Edelmans and niece Locola of persuading Stanley to exclude four individuals as beneficiaries of his trust – Liebman herself, and niece and nephews Douglas, Andrea, and Jonathan Bass, as well as Suncoast Haven of Rest Rescue Mission.
About 24 days later after removing Stanley from The Fountains at Boca Ciego Bay, the Edelmans and Locola selected an attorney and drafted a new trust with only the three of them listed as beneficiaries. Instead of individually receiving just 8% of Stanley’s will and trust, they would now presumably receive one-third.
The accusations continue: Originally, John Zucknovich held Stanley’s gold and silver coins, but after Howard and Dean Edelman removed Stanley from the “The Fountains,” Stanley asked Zucknovich to help him place his coins in safe deposit boxes at Chase Bank under the 2018 trust. On September 9, 2019, Howard and Dean arrived at Chase Bank with Stanley and convinced him to not place the coins in the bank. They left with the coins and Stanley in their possession. Liebman claims that to date, the Edelmans have not accounted for Stanley’s gold and silver coins.
Further, the Edelmans convinced Stanley that Liebman, the rescue mission and the “Bass” nephews and niece did not care for him and did not deserve to be beneficiaries. Only they cared for him, they allegedly proclaimed, and impressed upon Stanley that he could not survive without their assistance. Howard and Dean Edelman then took turns taking care of Stanley, while moving him back and forth to their homes, which allegedly caused Stanley to experience increased disorientation. He was now over 100 years old. Dean Edelman lived in Lake Mary, Florida and Howard lived in the Tampa area.
An interview with Reverend Lionel Cabral, Executive Director of Suncoast Haven of Rest Rescue Mission, gives another perspective on Stanley’s situation. From 2014 to 2018, the rescue mission looked after Stanley. Stanley owned property across the street from the mission, which included a church, as Stanley was also a Reverend.
When asked, Reverend Cabral indicated they are aware they were cut out as beneficiaries of Stanley’s estate but were informed by apparently Liebman’s attorney that the trust is being contested, and the rescue mission’s beneficiary status may be re-instated. He did not realize that Judith Liebman’s Complaint would make that possible.
Reverend Cabral began by saying, “Oh, Stanley didn’t like Judith. He thought she was after his money. She wouldn’t let him alone. But Stanley was very tight with his money.”
About Edelman, Reverend Cabral said, “Howard Edelman sounds familiar…he might be the guy who moved Stanley out of his property across the street because he wanted Stanley’s property sold. This guy didn’t like us, he wasn’t very cordial. I thought he just wanted Stanley’s money, too. We see bad things happening to people all the time, but there isn’t much we can do.” Asked about the 8% the rescue mission was to receive of Stanley’s trust, he replied, “It was a surprise to me. We weren’t expecting to get it. And knowing there’s a conflict now, I am not expecting we’ll see anything. It’s okay.”
What’s unknown is whether Stanley disliked Judith Liebman based on his own judgment, or if he was in fact, persuaded by the Edelmans or Locola to be suspicious of her.
Brief research into Howard Edelman reveals he has been an entrepreneur whose Cayman Cove Bar was featured in the renovation TV show, “Bar Rescue.” He also owned Villagio Cinemas at Carrollwood, but it is under a Hillsborough County Tax Collector Seizure process where machinery and equipment are to be sold online from September 9 to September 16, 2020.
In April 2020, Howard and his wife paid $425,000 for a home in Lutz.
The Plaintiff’s attorney is Catherine E. Blackburn of Blackburn Law Firm, St. Petersburg, Florida.