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Landmark Los Angeles Land Sale is ‘Exhibit A’ for Living Trusts, says Catanese & Wells

Few tracts of land in Los Angeles have a history as storied as “the Mountain.” Once owned by game show entrepreneur Merv Griffin and then Herbalife founder Mark Hughes, other groups that have toyed with the idea of ownership include actor Tom Cruise as well as the son of a convicted felon who represented mysterious Middle Eastern parties. It’s fitting then that this 157-acre site in Beverly Hills curiously sold for just $100,000 instead of the $1 billion asking price floated in 2018.

As a civil litigation firm in Los Angeles that deals with real estate disputes, Catanese & Wells is familiar with the legal wrangling that surrounds transactions in markets as hot as Southern California’s. Thus, the latest update offered by Los Angeles Magazine regarding “the Mountain” is a study in why the rest of us should retain a local law firm capable of taking our real estate issues to court.

According to the report, the land was auctioned off during foreclosure proceedings where the only bidder was the Mark Hughes Trust. One of the reasons for the steep cut in asking price was due to the fact that “the buyer would have to assume $200 million in liens on the property–debt owed to none other than the Mark Hughes Trust.” The mountain of paperwork associated with “the Mountain” can be traced to changes in ownership over the years. The late Hughes paid $8.7 million for the land and left it to his son, who was nine years old at the time of his father’s passing. A trust was established to develop the land, according to the report, which would have ideally increased its value through lucrative subdivision of the plot. Development plans that fell through led to the land hitting the auction block as-is; no bidders came forward during recent efforts and the Hughes trust forced the deed back to foreclosure action.

While it’s unlikely that personal real estate matters would ever become as convoluted as this, Catanese & Wells still champions working with the most experienced firm in the area. This boutique Los Angeles law firm that provides upscale and personalized service to all clients is also well-versed in living trusts and assets in an estate. In a previous exploration of this topic, Catanese & Wells informed readers that minors are unable to own property until reaching 18. “With a living trust, the successor trustee is able to overlook the property until the beneficiary reaches the legal age,” the article states. This was the case for “the Mountain” and it set in motion decades of idealistic ownership and plenty of proceedings in court. Should Los Angeles property owners feel that their own real estate issues should be settled in court, Catanese & Wells has a track record of delivering favorable decisions.