Leonard Cohen had been burned before. So in the years before his death in 2016, the “Hallelujah” singer and poet worked to secure most of his multi-million dollar estate for the benefit of his heirs — who are now fighting for total control of the Canadian musician’s assets, The Post has learned.
It’s a battle that includes accusations of forgery, secrets and allegations that the singer didn’t trust his own offspring to run his estate.
Cohen’s two adult children — daughter Lorca Cohen, 48, and son Adam Cohen, 50 — have been battling in Los Angeles Superior Court for more than a year to remove attorney Robert Kory, appointed by the musician before his death, as a trustee to the Leonard Cohen Family Trust, according to court documents reviewed by The Post.
The trust controls tens of millions of dollars in royalties for Cohen’s music as well as poetry, novels, photographs and 243 journal notebooks that Cohen, 82 when he died, had kept since he was a teenager. The so-called Leonard Cohen Archive is valued at more than $48 million, court filings say.
Cohen died on Nov. 7, 2016, after a fall in the middle of the night at his Los Angeles home. “The death was sudden, unexpected and peaceful,” Kory said at the time.
The Cohen children say that their father “came to appreciate in his waning days that he had made a grave error by allowing Kory to insinuate himself into Leonard’s affairs and take control over virtually every aspect of Leonard’s finances and legacy,” according to court papers.
Lorca and Adam claim that they have not been kept apprised by Kory of recent efforts to monetize his estate, including the posthumous publication of a Cohen novel, “A Ballet of Lepers,” published earlier this year, and the opening of “Everybody Knows,” an exhibit at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario, which opens to the public Tuesday.
The siblings also complain in court papers that Kory has employed his son, Ryan Kory, among others, to archive Cohen’s personal papers, which include copious notes on his greatest hits — including “Hallelujah,” for which he originally wrote 82 verses — according to court records. The archive is also said to include more 8,000 photographs.
Now, a lawyer hired two months ago by Adam, a musician, and Lorca, a photographer, said that he has proof that Kory forged documents in 2005 in order to control the singer’s legacy.
“Leonard Cohen’s lawyers and manager forged his trust so they could fleece the estate of millions of dollars and steal the Hall of Famer’s legacy from his own children,” attorney Adam Streisand told The Post.
Streisand, who is a cousin of the singer Barbra Streisand, said that there are two versions of the trust document signed by Cohen before his death. In the version that benefits the children, the trust document designates Lorca, Adam and Anjani Thomas — Cohen’s former lover and Kory’s former wife — as trustees after his death. Streisand told The Post that after Cohen died, a lawyer “swapped out … the page that says Adam, Lorca and Anjani, with a new page … that says Kory is designated trustee.”
“The one and only true version of the Trust appoints Adam, Lorca and Anjani Thomas,” according to court papers seen by The Post.
For his part, Kory, 72, has vehemently denied any wrongdoing in court papers, and has attributed any confusion in the documents to “a scrivener’s error.” He said that he has gone to great lengths to keep Lorca and Adam in the loop, providing monthly statements on the finances and work of the LCFT, according to court documents. He also said in a declaration to the court earlier this fall that he set up numerous meetings informing Lorca and Adam about the art show as well as the publication of Cohen’s novel.
The copyright on “A Ballet of Lepers,” is Old Ideas, LLC, a company controlled equally by the LCFT, Lorca and Adam, according to court papers, which also state that the children are receiving annual salaries of more than $400,000 each in addition to undisclosed revenue from royalties as a result of Kory’s tax planning for the estate.
“In 2016, without Mr. Kory’s request, Mr. Cohen instructed me to change the successor trustee to Mr. Kory,” writes Reeve Chudd, a lawyer for Cohen in an April 8, 2021, letter included in court papers. “He [Cohen] was concerned that his children didn’t have a sufficiently comfortable relationship to work together upon the complexities of the artist’s estate.”
Cohen wanted the change to be kept secret, court papers say. “While Mr. Cohen didn’t wish for this change in succession of trusteeship to be revealed to his children, Mr. Kory insisted, and this was explained to Adam and Lorca at a meeting in September 2015,” Chudd continued in his letter.
During his lifetime, Cohen, who was born in Montreal in 1934, was generous to his children, buying Adam a home and Lorca a Los Angeles store valued at more than $1 million, according to court papers.
“Later in life, viewing the abundance of wealth he’d already passed down to trusts for his children, Mr. Cohen complained, only half in jest, that Mr. Kory had turned him into King Lear,” Chudd noted in the letter.
Reached by The Post at his Los Angeles office, Chudd declined to comment.
Kory did not return The Post’s calls for comment. Adam and Lorca Cohen declined comment through Streisand.
In 2005, the musician had sued his former longtime manager Kelley Lynch, claiming that she had stolen more $5 million from a fund set up for his retirement. The theft allegedly occurred while he was on a five-year retreat at a Zen Buddhist monastery in California. Lynch, also a Buddhist and Cohen’s former love, denied the claims.
“What can I do?” Cohen told the Canadian news magazine Macleans at the time. “I had to go to work. I have no money left.”
Cohen returned to touring, performing at concert venues around the world as a septuagenarian in order to recoup his losses.
Later, in 2012, Lynch was sentenced to 18 months in prison and five years probation for what a Los Angeles court judge called “long, unrelenting barrage of harassing behavior” towards Cohen that became so bad that he said said it had made him fear for his life.