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Hoping to avoid a messy trial in the public eye, lawyers on both sides of a $35 million probate fight said Monday they reached a last-minute settlement in the estate of Jupiter, Fla., hedge fund manager and CNBC financial analyst Seth Tobias. Palm Beach, Fla., Circuit Judge Richard Oftedal was ready to begin a trial Monday in the court fight over the drowning of Tobias last Labor Day weekend. Two half-brothers claimed Tobias was killed by his wife in their backyard pool last Sept. 4. Filomena Tobias denied playing any role in her husband’s death, and the Palm Beach County state attorney’s office filed no criminal charges. “The parties have reached a settlement that is mutually satisfactory to both sides,” said West Palm Beach attorney Jamie Pressly of Pressly & Pressly. “It does end potentially years of trial court and appellate work.” The attorneys would not say whether Seth Tobias’ relatives would receive anything under the settlement. But Pressly said there was no language in the settlement requiring the brothers to retract their murder claim. The parties are scheduled to return Thursday to seek the judge’s approval of final settlement language, which they want to keep confidential. The judge said he would review case law on the confidentiality request and decide later. Attorneys said the settlement would not be affected if Oftedal rejects confidentiality. Filomena Tobias is “certainly relieved that this ordeal is over for her,” said West Palm Beach attorney Jay Jacknin of Christiansen & Jacknin, one of her attorneys and her ex-husband. “She really hasn’t had an opportunity to mourn” her late husband’s death. Brian O’Connell of Casey Ciklin Lubitz Martens & O’Connell in West Palm Beach, another attorney for Filomena Tobias, said she “had nothing to do with her husband’s death.” Pressly represents Seth Tobias’ half-brothers Sam and Spence Tobias of New York, who along with other relatives and friends were listed in a 2004 will. Tobias family members have accepted the settlement, Pressly said. A friend and the scholarship fund also named in the will have not yet given their consent. If they object, they must state their objections at Thursday’s hearing. The brothers sued to prevent Filomena Tobias from inheriting all of his estate. Seth Tobias had no children. Filomena Tobias was not named in the will written in the year before the couple married. Her attorneys maintained she was entitled to his entire estate under Florida’s “pretermitted spouse” law used in cases where a will predates a marriage. The brothers claimed in court documents that their sister-in-law murdered him and should not be allowed to inherit under the state slayer statute intended to prevent killers from profiting from their crimes. Probate law experts interviewed by the Daily Business Review said the slayer statute had never been used successfully in Florida without supporting criminal charges, but there was an Illinois case that succeeded without charges. The brothers asserted Filomena Tobias put the prescription sleep aid Ambien into his food, lured him to the pool and drowned him. She has denied the claim in sworn statements in the court file. The autopsy report listed drowning as the cause of death but left the manner of death “undetermined.” Investigators found zolpidem, the key ingredient in Ambien, as well as cocaine and alcohol in his system. The state attorney’s office concluded in February that there was “no indication of criminal activity” in Tobias’ death. The brothers based their murder accusation on an uncorroborated claim by convicted felon William Ash of San Diego, who said Filomena Tobias confessed in telephone calls starting Sept. 5. Ash, who got to know Filomena Tobias by taking her calls as an Internet psychic, became a close confidant and claimed they sometimes spoke 30 times a day. Ash went public with his murder accusation and told the Daily Business Review that he feared being charged as an accessory if he kept quiet. “I wasn’t going to jail for her,” he said. Court documents included a letter to Ash’s lawyer from a California polygraph examiner who said he passed a lie detector test when asked if Filomena Tobias confessed to him that she killed her husband. Asked if she might sue Ash over his claim that she killed her husband, O’Connell said, “We haven’t made any decisions yet.”

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