The late actress Anne Heche left behind two children and an unknown amount of wealth after she died in a fiery car crash in early August.
Now, her 20-year-old son, Homer Laffoon, and her ex-boyfriend, actor James Tupper, who's also the father of her other son, 13-year-old Atlas Heche Tupper, are going head-to-head over who has control over her estate.
After Laffoon filed a petition in August, a court appointed him as "special administrator" of the estate on Sept. 15.
David Glass, a family law attorney and an ABC News contributor, defined what this means in the legal battle.
- 2August 15, 2022
"A special administrator only has the power to keep the estate open and to start counting up the assets. The special administrator does not have the power to start transferring or selling assets," Glass said.
However, Tupper, who said he had a relationship with Heche from 2007 to 2018, claims in a court filing that he's the will's rightful executor and alleges he was copied on an email that Heche sent to lawyer Kevin York in 2011 indicating her wishes in case of death.
"My wishes are that all of my assets go to the control of Mr. James Tupper to be used to raise my children and then given to the children," Heche wrote, according to a copy of the email included in the court filing. According to Laffoon's petition, Heche ultimately died without signing a will.
Tupper is asking the court to name a third party fiduciary as the executor or in the alternative name his as executor. He also argued in the court filing that Laffoon is not "suitable" to represent Heche's estate or the interests of his younger brother -- citing his age and unemployment -- and argued that he was estranged from his mother when she died.
The document also claims that Laffoon changed the locks on his mother's home the day she died, preventing his half brother, Tupper's son, from retrieving his belongings.
"We prefer to see the estate administration play out in court and not in the media, as our legal documents speak for themselves," Laffoon's attorney, Bryan Phipps, told ABC News in a statement. "The court appointing Homer special administrator last week supports that decision."
Heche, an Emmy award-winning actress, suffered serious burns and a major brain injury when her car jumped a curb and crashed into the side of a Los Angeles home on Aug. 5. Nearly 60 firefighters worked to pull her from the wreckage. She was taken to a hospital in a coma and died a week later.
A hearing to decide whether Tupper, Laffoon or a third party should control the estate is set for Oct. 11.Glass said that these types of cases can take a while.
"They are usually not decided for at least six months to a year," Glass said. "Ultimately, if neither of them has a perfect case, the most likely result is that the court will appoint a neutral administrator, a professional fiduciary to go through the estate and distribute it."