When Tom Sefton, scion of the San Diego banking family, died in 2006, he left nothing to Thomas Sefton Jr., his son by his first marriage. He left most of the estate to his children by his second marriage, Harley and Laurie Sefton. Thomas Jr. went to court and lost: the trial court ruled that Tom Sefton was entitled to disinherit the son.
Thomas Jr. appealed, and the appellate court remanded the matter, saying he was entitled to a "substantial" amount of the estate of Joseph Sefton, Tom's father, who died in 1966. The trial court then determined that Thomas deserved $565,350, or 7 percent of one-seventh (1 percent) of the estate of Joseph Sefton.
Thomas appealed a second time, and on April 24 of this year, the Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, ruled that Thomas Jr. should get one-third of the estate of Joseph, his grandfather. He will get $26 million to $27 million, says Richard Van Dyke of Van Dyke & Associates, the law firm that handled the appeal. Thomas Jr. will have to pay substantial attorney's fees out of that sum, but "he will be very well taken care of for the rest of his life," says Van Dyke.
Van Dyke says Thomas Jr. could be disinherited by his father Tom, "but couldn't be from his grandfather" who had set up a trust for Tom, Tom's siblings, and grandchildren in the 1950s.
The Sefton family controlled San Diego Trust & Savings, which was established in 1889. The Sefton interest in the bank was sold to the former First Interstate for $350 million in stock in 1994. The grandfather's estate got some of that stock.
Thomas Jr. is a budding author living in Brooklyn.