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Brando's Former Aide Files Suit Over Will

The woman alleges that the actor's signature was forged to change the executors of his estate.

July 04, 2006|Robert W. Welkos | Times Staff Writer

A former personal assistant to Marlon Brando has filed a lawsuit alleging that the Oscar-winning actor's will was forged in the days before his death.

The 80-year-old Brando was too ill to have signed documents that appointed Hollywood producer Mike Medavoy and two others as coexecutors of his estate because the legendary actor was suffering from a "plethora of diseases," including dementia and loss of normal bodily functions, including mental and motor skills, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court by Angela Borlaza against coexecutors Medavoy, Brando's close friend of many years, and Larry J. Dressler, Medavoy's brother-in-law.

The amendment to Brando's trust, dated June 18, 2004, removed his longtime personal assistant Alice Marshak and his friend and business manager, Jo An Corrales, as coexecutors of his estate.

Brando died July 1, 2004, of lung failure in Los Angeles. His estate is said to be worth more than $20 million, and potential commercial uses of his likeness could make it even more valuable. His will named nine children as beneficiaries.

Elizabeth A. Bawden, the attorney for the Brando estate, declined to comment Monday, saying she had not read the lawsuit.

Borlaza accuses the defendants of fraud, deceit and breach of oral contract, among other things. It seeks more than $2 million in damages. She claims that the coexecutors wrongly evicted her last year from the home that Brando had purchased for her in Winnetka in the San Fernando Valley.

The legal action adds to the mystery surrounding Brando's final days. Many of Brando's oldest friends have said in press interviews that they felt shut out of the actor's life in his final months. However, they blamed Borlaza for being the gatekeeper who kept them ignorant of Brando's deteriorating health.

But Borlaza said in her lawsuit that it was the current coexecutors who made several major changes to Brando's financial affairs designed to "isolate him from his longtime trusted advisors and personal friends in order to ... gain control over [his] estate after his death."

The suit claims that on June 18, 2004, Dressler and his attorney, Charles Larson, arrived at Brando's residence to meet with the actor, whose health was rapidly failing. Dressler and Larson told Borlaza that she could not be a witness to Brando's signing of the codicil naming new executors and insisted that Brando's handyman, whom the suit identifies only as "Sam," serve as a witness, the lawsuit said.

Borlaza said she never saw Brando sign anything that day and was surprised to learn later that Brando's signature was said to be on the codicil. The suit also raises questions about the validity of the document: It contends that Neil Dexter, who notarized the trust amendment, was not present at the house that day.

Furthermore, according to the lawsuit, Borlaza had been trained by Brando to spot forgeries of his signature -- the actor would place a "secret code," consisting of dots between various letters of his name, to distinguish his true signature from fakes -- and she does not believe that the codicil bears Brando's signature.

Borlaza, also known as Evelyn Magaling, was initially hired by Brando as a cook at his Mulholland Drive residence in Beverly Hills, but she eventually assumed other roles, such as his office and personal assistant, and "acted in his stead when he was not home," according to the suit.

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