William Kane spelled it all out in his will before he killed himself in a Las Vegas hotel suite last year.
His two children would get the 7 1/2 acres of land in Monterey.
His first cousin would get $30,000.
His girlfriend, Deborah Hecht, would get everything else, most notably a dozen vials of Kane's frozen sperm on deposit at a Westwood sperm bank.
Friends say Kane, a brilliant man whose life swirled--at least in his mind--with hints of military and diplomatic intrigue, was too tired and depressed to go on living, but nonetheless wanted to have a child with the woman he had lived with for five years.
His instructions were starkly explicit. If she so desired, Hecht was to be allowed to withdraw the sperm after his death and use it to conceive a child to be named Wyatt Ellen Kane, if a girl, or Joshua Everett Kane, if a boy.
But within weeks of the Malibu man's suicide last October, things started getting complicated--and nasty.
Kane's ex-wife, Sandra McMahan Irwin, a Pasadena attorney, and the two college-age children she bore by Kane, contested the will, contending that Kane was delusional when he wrote it.
Kane's estate was placed in the hands of a court-appointed administrator, who, upon discovering the existence of the vials of sperm, claimed the sperm as part of the estate pending a court-approved settlement between Hecht and the two children.
Now, almost a year since the suicide, the two sides have yet to settle and Hecht, 37, continues to be denied access to the sperm she claims was a final gesture of her lover's devotion to her. She has moved out of the home she shared with Kane in Malibu and is renting a room in Santa Monica while attending school.
Calling it a case of "high-tech kidnaping," Hecht's lawyers say attorneys representing Kane's children have purposely kept the sperm--stored in liquid nitrogen at California Cryobank of Westwood--bottled up in litigation in a ploy to exact more concessions from Hecht.
An earlier agreement reached last December, in which Hecht took possession of a 1991 Lincoln Town Car, $80,000 and several other items, failed to end the dispute.
Hecht's attorney at the time, Richard Caplan, did not secure the sperm in the agreement, believing that it was not an issue. "It's not something that's of terrible interest in a civil settlement," he said.
It is now.
Shortly after Hecht signed the agreement, the court-appointed administrator, Robert L. Greene, claimed the sperm for the estate.
Both sides continue to scrap over money, belongings and life insurance proceeds.
"Our position is that they have abused the process for their own gain," said one of Hecht's attorney's, Marvin Rudnick.
A court-mandated settlement conference is scheduled Oct. 9, but any agreement must be approved not only by the court, but by the sizable pack of creditors attached to the estate, Irwin said.
Hecht contends that she has forsaken virtually all of what is rightfully hers so she can obtain the sperm and fulfill Kane's wish that she try to conceive a child.
"The only reason he was able to go as peacefully as he did is because I told him I'd have our child," she tearfully said in a recent interview.
Kane's ex-wife and children are not moved by the story. In Los Angeles County Probate Court papers, Irwin and the children--William Everett Kane Jr., 21, a student at Princeton University, and Katharine Elizabeth Kane, 18, who attends New York University--describe their father as delusional and contend that he was was not of sound mind when he made out the will, a contention also made by estate administrator Greene.
Irwin also said that Hecht, with a greedy eye toward Kane's estate, did nothing to stop Kane's suicide and may have encouraged him in his plans, a theory that police dismiss and Hecht emphatically denies.
As for the sperm, Irwin concedes that neither of her children are keen on the prospect of having a half-sibling through Hecht. For starters, she noted that the offspring could, at least in theory, lay claim to a chunk of Kane's estate at a later date.
Nevertheless, Irwin stressed that neither she nor her children have filed a legal claim for the vials and have no interest in them.
"Frankly, I find the whole subject matter fairly distasteful," she said. "I really did not want to get into an argument about the sperm."
Hecht's attorneys counter that Irwin and Beverly Hills attorney Barbara J. Bailey, who represents the son, are merely letting the probate court do their dirty work for them. If they were indifferent to the disposition of the sperm, Rudnick says, they could draft a letter to the judge stating that their clients have no interest in the vials.
Irwin, however, insists that she is powerless to release the sperm. Estate administrator Greene's attorney, Gary M. Ruttenburg of Santa Monica, contends that--in the view of the court--the sperm is like any other property and can be released only with a court order.
"We have inventoried it as an asset," he said. "We don't know what to do with it."