MOUNTAIN CENTER, Calif. — A Riverside County probate judge will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of Lydia "Dia" Abrams, who went missing form her ranch near Idyllwild in 2020.
“I'll do my best to appoint the guardian ad litem in the next two days,” said Judge John Evans during Tuesday morning's hearing in Palm Springs.
The guardian ad litem will represent Abrams’ legal interests, as she is unable to advocate for herself in court, given the fact that she is missing.
More than a year and a half ago, Abrams’ two adult children, Crisara and Clinton Abrams, petitioned the court to remove Abrams’ boyfriend, Keith Harper, 72, as trustee of her estate in Mountain Center.
Parties in the litigation believe Abrams, 65, is deceased, though her remains have not been located.
Abrams’ adult children alleged in court papers that Harper is under investigation by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department for their mother’s homicide. Harper alleged in court filings that Clinton Abrams is under investigation for Abrams’ disappearance.
Harper told CBS 8 in an August 2020 interview that he was the last person to see Abrams alive at her 117-acre Bonita Vista Ranch on the afternoon of June 6, 2020. She went missing, leaving her vehicle, purse, and cell phone behind.
Two days later, Harper packed up an RV at the ranch and left the state for seven days “to do business in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado,” according to his court filings. Harper claimed he notified Riverside sheriff’s investigators that he was travelling out of state.
Abrams’ disappearance came two weeks after she signed a restated trust, which named Harper as co-trustee of her estate, and disinherited her two adult children.
The probate court battle appeared close to settlement in early August 2022 following mediation talks. All parties signed a settlement "term sheet" dated August 5. But Harper’s attorney, Dennis Healey, died unexpectedly on August 31, before the parties could sign off on a final settlement agreement.
Following Healey’s death, Harper hired a new attorney and then field papers in court opposing the settlement, arguing the term sheet was nothing more than “mere bullet points” and was unenforceable as a legal agreement.
On Tuesday, Judge Evans disagreed.
“My tentative decision would be to enter a judgment on the term agreement,” Judge Evans said during the hearing.
The ruling was “tentative” because the settlement agreement must now be reviewed by the new guardian ad litem appointed to represent Abrams.
The guardian ad litem will “weigh in on whether he or she approves of the term sheet on behalf of Miss Abrams,” according to Matthew Owens, the San Diego attorney representing the missing woman's adult children.
Dia Abrams is the widow of the late Clem Abrams, a La Jolla real estate developer who died in December 2018.
Under the settlement terms, an independent trustee would be appointed to manage and liquidate Abrams’ estate, including the Bonita Vista Ranch and two separate, residential properties in Mountain Center.
The funds from the sale of assets and properties would be held by the independent trustee and used to fund a $300,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for Abrams’ disappearance.
Keith Harper, who currently lives on the Bonita Vista Ranch, would continue as a co-trustee with limited powers to maintain the ranch property and livestock, until the property is sold under the terms of the settlement.
If the court determines that Dia Abrams is deceased, or if she is not located by June 6, 2025 (five years after her disappearance), the agreement calls for 50% of her liquidated estate to go to her adult children, and the other 50% to go to Keith Harper.
Judge Evans set future hearings in Riverside County probate court for January 5, 2023 and March 23, 2023.
WATCH: Former employee of Dia Abrams details timeline of her disappearance: