Leonard Cohen was a legendary Canadian singer-songwriter, poet, and novelist. Unfortunately, since his death, his children and former lawyer have been embattled in a fierce fight over his wealth. Join us as we take a look at this sticky situation to see what might come of it.
Facts Verse Presents: Leonard Cohen’s Children Battle Over His $48 Million Fortune
He Was Burned By His Former Manager
In late 2005, Leonard’s daughter Lorca began to suspect that the singer’s longtime manager, Kelley Lynch, was guilty of improperly and dishonestly handling his finances. Cohen’s biographer Sylvie Simmons noted that Lynch was not only Leonard’s financial advisor and business partner but also a close friend, rivaling that of a family member.
Upon Lorca’s insistence, Cohen looked into his financial records only to discover that he had unknowingly paid off one of Lynch’s credit card bills amounting to more than $75,000. He also learned to his horror that the majority of the money in his accounts was nowhere to be found. The missing funds included money that was set aside for his retirement and for charitable purposes.
After connecting a few dots, he realized that this had been going on since as early as 1996, when Lynch began selling off Cohen’s music publishing rights even though he had next to no financial incentive to do so at the time.
Cohen ended up suing Lynch in October of 2005, alleging that she had embezzled more than $5 million of his hard-earned money, leaving him with as little as $150,000 in savings. Cohen in turn was counter-sued by other former business associates of his.
In March 2006, Cohen won a civil suit and was awarded by a LA County Superior court with $9 million. While that might sound like a victory, Lynch ignored the suit and didn’t respond to subpoenas issued to obtain her financial records. It was widely reported at the time that Cohen might not ever be able to collect the amount he was awarded.
In a shocking turn of events, in 2012, Lynch was arrested and jailed for 18 months with five years of probation for harassing Cohen after he fired her.
He Learned From His Terrible Experience
After the nightmare that was dealing with Lynch and her nefarious handling of his finances, Cohen was able to recover from that experience and secure most of his multi-million dollar estate with the future benefit of his children in mind.
Cohen was the father to two. His first child was the previously mentioned Lorca, who works as a photographer. He also has a son named Adam who’s followed in his footsteps by becoming a singer-songwriter. Adam is also noted for being the lead singer of the pop-rock band Low Millions.
In addition to his two kids, Cohen also had three grandchildren, Cassius, Viva, and Lyon.
While Cohen had several failed romantic relationships throughout his life, he always remained intensely devoted to his children, whom he invariably wanted the best for. It stands to reason then that he had their best interests in mind when he was penning up his will and figuring out who would inherit his assets.
Cohen ended up passing away at the age of 82 on November 7, 2016, There seems to be some confusion surrounding how he actually died, as some reports claim that leukemia was the contributing cause, while his manager announced that he had suffered from a fall at his Los Angeles home that subsequently led to him dying in his sleep later that evening. Regardless, he was laid to rest on November 10 and was given a proper Jewish burial in Montreal.
In the days, weeks, and months that followed, numerous stars and political figures paid him tribute. Not only that, but officials in Montreal ended up honoring him by motioning to name a street and library after him.
Clearly there was a massive outpouring of love for Cohen following his death, and his family proved to be the primary organizers of many tributes that were arranged in his memory. For example, on the eve of his first death anniversary on November 6, 2017, Cohen’s children organized a tribute concert titled Tower Of Song that was held at the Bell Centre in Montreal. That event featured performances by a wide range of Cohen’s peers, including Elvis Costello, Sting, Damien Rice, The Lumineers, and Lana Del Ray, among others. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie even spoke at the event detailing their personal affinity for Cohen’s music.
Obviously, Cohen’s family deeply cared for him. Otherwise they wouldn’t have gone out of their way to ensure that he has been remembered as fondly as he has been. That being said, Cohen’s kids and former lawyer seem to be making matters tremendously challenging in the wake of his death by bickering over who should inherit his wealth. If Leonard only knew that his heirs were engaged in such a conflict over something so arbitrary, he’d likely roll over in his grave.
No One Can Agree Who Should Get His Wealth
On December 12, 2022, The New York Post reported that Cohen’s heirs are fighting for control of his assets. This legal battle includes nasty accusations of forgery, secret-keeping, and even assertions that the late singer didn’t trust his own children to run his estate.
According to court records obtained by The Post, Lorca, aged 48, and Adam, 50, have been engaged in a legal battle with the Los Angeles Superior Court for over a year now to remove attorney Robert Kory, whom Cohen appointed before his death, as a trustee of the Leonard Cohen Family Trust.
Said trust controls tens of millions of dollars in royalties for Leonard’s music, poetry, photographs, and novels. It also covers 243 journals that Cohen had maintained since he was a teen. This collection which has been dubbed the Leonard Cohen Archive has been valued at over $48 million.
According to Lorca and Adam, their father had revealed to them in his final days that he had made a ‘grave error’ in judgment by appointing Kory to take control over his finances and legacy. They further claim that the attorney was inappropriately insinuating himself into Cohen’s affairs in the weeks and months preceding his sudden and unexpected death.
On top of all of that, Cohen’s adult kids claim that they haven’t been kept in the loop by Kory regarding his recent efforts to monetize Leonard’s estate. They also say that he hadn’t informed them about his intentions to publish and profit off a posthumous publication of a Cohen novel entitled “A Ballet of Lepers” that hit book shelves earlier this year and that he likewise acted in a similar way in regards to the opening of an exhibit called “Everybody Knows” that opened at the Toronto Art Gallery of Ontario in mid-December 2022.
According to court filings, the siblings further have taken issue with the fact that Kory employed his son Ryan Kory among several others, to archive their father’s papers. These documents evidently include thousands of notes related to some of his greatest hits, including Hallelujah, for which he reportedly penned 82 previously unpublished verses. Furthermore, the archive is said to include over 8,000 photographs.
In October 2022, Adam and Lorca, hired a new lawyer named Adam Streisand to help argue their case. According to him, there is proof that Kory allegedly forged documents in 2005 to gain control of the singer’s legacy. If this is true, that would obviously amount to fraud.
Streisand told the Post in December that Cohen’s lawyers and managers had forged his trust so that they could swindle his estate out of millions of dollars and steal his legacy away from his children. Once again, these accusations, if true, are nothing short of shocking!
Streisand, who incidentally is the cousin of the best-selling singer Barbra Streisand, alleges that there are at least two versions of the trust document that were signed by Leonard before he died. One of these documents outlines a plan that would benefit his children. In that one, the trust designates Lorca, Adam, Cohen’s former lover and Kory’s ex-wife, Anjani Thomas, as trustees.
Streisand claims that shortly after the singer died, an unscrupulous lawyer ‘swapped out’ the page that lists Adam, Lorca, and Anjani as trustees with a new page that says that Kory is the designated trustee. Without having anything else to work with, it does at least seem somewhat plausible that this might have taken place, because after all why would Cohen who had by all acounts a glowing relationship with his children suddenly decide to short change them like that when he had worked so hard to set them up with a comfortable future in the first place? Granted, we’re not lawyers, and we only know as much as you do, but something undeniably smells fishy.
According to court papers reported on by the Post, Streisand claims that the one and only legitimate version of the trust is the one that appoints Adam, Lorca, and Anjani as trustees.
In response to these startling accusations, Kory, who’s 72, has consistently denied any wrongdoing. He likewise attributes any confusion over the trust documents to a ‘scrivener’s error’. Don’t worry, we had to look that one up too! Apparently, a scrivener’s error is an unintentional mistake in the drafting of a legal contract, so basically a typo.
Kory additionally claims that he has gone to tremendous lengths to keep Adam and Lorca in the loop about everything by providing them with monthly financial statements regarding the trust. In stark contrast to what they claim, Kory says that he has set up numerous meetings with Adam and Lorca to inform them about the publication of Cohen’s novel and the aforementioned art shows.
According to court documents, Cohen’s kids are currently receiving annual salaries of more than four hundred grand a piece in addition to undisclosed royalties.
One bit that might hurt the Cohen children in the long run is a statement made by Reeve Chudd, one of Cohen’s lawyers, which said that he was instructed to discretely change the successor trustee to Kory several years ago after expressing that he had concern that his children didn’t have a comfortable enough relationship to work together on the complexities of his estate.
Chudd’s statement further reveals that despite the fact that Cohen wanted to keep this change-up a secret, it was reportedly explained to them at a meeting in September 2015.
Until we learn more on this matter, we’ll just have to wait and see what becomes of the Leonard Cohen trust situation. Even so, you can bet that this legal battle is going to stretch on for many years to come. These sorts of situations rarely are ever resolved in a timely matter, and usually they end up getting quite ugly before a judge ultimately determines who the rightful heir is.
Who do you think should inherit Leonard Cohen’s wealth, and do you believe Cohen’s kid’s claim that his lawyer forged documents to finagle his way into becoming his sole heir? Let us know in the comments, and as always, thanks for watching!