The long saga surrounding the wealthy estate of a recently deceased mining heiress that has captivated residents of Florida and the rest of the country has taken another turn, as the estate's accountant has resigned amid accusations he handled the estate poorly. The case is another perfect example of the need for estate planning decisions to be made earlier in life, instead of when it's too late.

The accountant resigned earlier this month from his role as executor of the $400 million estate. The accountant and an attorney, who also had a role in managing the estate, have caught the eye of the Manhattan public administrator and the New York attorney general's office. Officials were preparing to ask a probate court to remove the two from their roles.

Attorneys for the public administrator wrote in a probate court filing that the accountant and attorney tried to get the heiress, who died earlier this year at the age of 104, to make them executors and leave them large sums of money. They are also believed to have failed to pay $90 million in federal gift taxes and penalties. The two deny any wrongdoing. The accountant had worked for the heiress' estate for the last three decades.

The woman's estate has been a source of curiosity for years. While alive, she owned the largest residence on Fifth Avenue, but the reclusive woman had lived in a hospital since the 1980s. The woman had left two wills, one that left most of the estate to family, and another that left most of the estate to her nurse and charity, including an arts foundation that the accountant and attorney would run.

The public administrator's office also accuses the attorney of writing gift checks to himself and the accountant for tens of thousands of dollars, along with convincing the woman to spend money on Jewish settlements in the West Bank of Palestine, where his daughter lives. Family members of the woman were unable to get a guardian appointed while she was still alive.

Source: Associated Press, "APNewsBreak: NY accountant off heiress' estate," Jennifer Peltz, Dec. 21, 2011