TAMPA, Fla. - There are new questions about the estate of Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac after a Florida judge ruled that his mother's will was fraudulent.
Gabrielle Kerouac left all of her son's assets to his third wife, Stella Sampas Kerouac, when she died in 1973. Ever since, the Sampas family has had control of Jack Kerouac's manuscripts, letters and personal belongings.
Jack Kerouac's daughter challenged the will in 1994, after seeing a copy and deciding the signature was fake. She died two years later, but Paul Blake Jr., the writer's nephew, continued the litigation.
In an order filed Friday in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court, Judge George W. Greer ruled the will was a forgery. The ruling does not make any decision on who allegedly forged the document.
"Clearly, Gabrielle Kerouac was physically unable to sign the document dated February 13, 1973 and, more importantly, that which appears on the will dated that date is not her signature," Greer wrote.
The ruling is sure to please some Kerouac devotees who have objected to the handling of the writer's estate, including the sale of his raincoat to actor Johnny Depp for US$50,000 and the original manuscript scroll of Kerouac's 1957 classic "On the Road," which was sold to the owner of the Indianapolis Colts for US$2.43 million.
"They will first see this as a wonderful ending to this story," Blake's attorney, Bill Wagner, said.
It's unclear, however, how much the estate is currently worth and what action Blake might take. Wagner said that early in the litigation, they agreed not to question the Sampas family on what assets they still had. Previous estimates of the estate, which included Kerouac's unpublished manuscripts, journals, thousands of letters and the St. Petersburg house where Kerouac lived when he died in 1969, have placed its value at about US$20 million.
Blake did not immediately respond to a request for comment through his attorney.
Lawyer Elaine McGinnis, who was appointed to represent the estate's interest, said she was not surprised by the decision, given testimony from a handwriting expert presented at trial.
But she said that whether or not the will was forged remains a mystery.
"Everybody is dead now that was ever involved in it, so no one will really ever know," she said.