Descendant of Brand family in legal fight over estate

Descendant of the Brand family is out of money and battling her brothers for what she calls her fair share.

April 29, 2011|By Megan O'Neil,
  • Austeene Cooper smiles in an undated photo. Cooper, a descendant of Glendale founder Leslie C. Brand, is currently in dispute with her brothers over the family trust. (Photo courtesy Austeene Cooper)
Austeene Cooper smiles in an undated photo. Cooper, a…

Poking out from a mountain of clutter on the dining room table in Austeene Cooper’s living room is a pair of pink candelabras accented with ornate piping. There are other similar items — framed photographs, mirrors, furniture — that whisper of a bygone era of luxury and privilege.

They once decorated the Beverly Hills home of her father, Harry Brand Cooper, the great-nephew of Leslie C. Brand, who was one of the founders of the city of Glendale.

Sitting now amid dust and cat-scratched boxes, they tell a different story: that of a woman who, four generations removed from the peak of her family’s wealth, is struggling to adapt to a new reality in which she is struggling to even keep a roof over her head.

“I wasn’t going to let them go. I had to pay for them,” she said of the heirlooms, purchased at a 2004 auction as her father’s estate was divided among her siblings. “I brought everything in and just put it around in my house expecting I was going to get more money so that I could organize everything and make it livable, and that never happened, so now it is just a disaster.”


Raised on private schools, fine clothes and glitzy parties, Austeene Cooper, 62, is currently squatting in her Benedict Canyon Drive home. She says she hasn’t made a payment on the heavily mortgaged property in more than a year. She’s without an income, and says that her inheritance is all but gone.

What’s more, she is locked in a bitter legal battle with her three brothers over their father’s estate. The dispute has played out in probate court like a bruising, nine-round boxing match with allegations of mismanagement, fraud and frivolous lawsuits.

The Cooper brothers maintain that the terms of their father’s trust were executed as Harry Brand Cooper dictated before his death, refuting their sister’s claims that they hid assets and shirked their responsibilities.

A life of promise

Austeene Cooper’s family tree is deeply rooted in Glendale’s history. Her paternal grandmother and namesake, Austeene Cooper, was raised in Glendale at her uncle Leslie C. Brand’s estate, El Miradero. The property was given to the city in 1945 and is now home to the Brand Park and Library.

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