Inside a quiet room on an upper floor of a glimmering glass office building in Trenton sits a seemingly ordinary stack of documents.
The papers summarize a bitter court fight.
But this is no routine legal tussle.
At issue is a tradition as basic to families as wedding rings and vacation photographs: Who ultimately has a right to an inheritance?
On one side stands the Cohen family of Hudson News fame, whose once-vibrant patriarch in Englewood is now rendered nearly immobile and virtually speechless by a degenerative neurological disorder.
On the other side is his former son-in-law, Ronald Perelman, a legendary corporate takeover billionaire and Revlon chairman with a take-no-prisoners reputation in his financial dealings. He's trying to convince a court to declare the elderly Cohen incapacitated.
Perelman says his daughter — Cohen's granddaughter — is entitled to half of the family's fortune, which has been estimated to be as much as $800 million by Fortune magazine. To get the money, Perelman wants to go where few court cases have ever ventured: He wants to rewrite the will of a man who isn't dead.
Perelman's lawsuit, which he filed as executor of the estate of his ex-wife, was dismissed a year ago by a Bergen County judge, who just last month sanctioned his lawyers for "overly aggressive" tactics and ruled that one of Perelman's central legal claims was "frivolous."
Perelman is appealing.
Where this case will lead is an open question. Already, this bitter conflict has touched on such issues as a family's right to privacy, its ability to protect its business interests, and broader ethical and legal questions about the rights of the disabled and elderly to make decisions in their wills.
Sad tales like this are played out far too often, though usually with much lower stakes.