Sunday, July 17, 2016

Attacking Camelot

Socialite Alicia Clark died in February. Her will left her $17.5 million estate to the Humane Society. Her estate is in the news because the administrator of her estate has filed a Freedom of Information request to open a file which might shed light on whether Clark was the mother of JFK love child even though she had long denied having a child with the late President. 

She had reportedly planned to blackmail President Kennedy's father in the early 60's related to such rumors. The blackmail attempt only became public after her then attorney went public after she did not pay his $1.2 million bill (in 1961 dollars) for negotiating a will with her soon to die husband which gave her $10 million for 13 days of marriage. Meanwhile, a man in the Bahamas claims the will is fake and that her valid will is a handwritten will she made in the Bahamas in 2001. That alleged will left one million to each of the doormen at her NYC apartment and the caretaker of that apartment, and the rest to the guy in the Bahamas. Got it? 

So many possibilities, so let's try to stay focused on the salient points: 

1. The JFK love child angle seems to be irrelevant. If Clark had a child and raised him, she would have provided for him in her will and would have been seen with him in the past 55 years. If she gave him up for adoption, that child has no rights under law because his rights to her estate would be terminated due to the adoption.  

2. Some (re: me) might think that the estate administrator is grandstanding (successfully because he made the news) or is running up a larger bill than necessary in looking for a love child who likely has nothing to do with the estate, even if he exists. 

3. Clark's former attorney's $1.2 million bill for what is essentially a pre-nuptial agreement seems excessively large by any standards much less those of 1961. Those agreements are not typically handled on a contingent fee basis which must have been the basis on which he billed. 

4. That said, $10 million for 13 days of marriage to a dying man might be worth a $1.2 million fee. 

5. Lastly, the Bahamas guy must be suffering from sunstroke or island fever. Everyone besides the writers of Harold and Maude knows that Manhattan socialites do not create handwritten wills on vacation to leave their estates to their staff and random guys in the islands.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Not Friends


Jennifer Aniston's recently deceased mother allegedly left Aniston out of her will. Even though Aniston reportedly supported her mother in recent years, her mother left her personal belongings and condo to another unidentified relative. Aniston and her mother had been estranged for years and had only somewhat reconciled two weeks before the mother's death.


Several very brief points:


1. Aniston's mother was not required to leave any assets to Aniston by law. She may leave them to whomever she chooses.


2. Aniston certainly does not need any of her mother's money.


3. Like any 40-something year old, it is doubtful that Aniston would want/need any of her mom's tsochktes.


4. It is refreshing to read an article about Aniston that does not involve pregnancy speculation although it does mention Brad Pitt.



Monday, July 11, 2016

The Nest

Gosh, times are slow in the newsworthy estates and trusts area, except for the conga line of people claiming to be heirs of Prince. Reluctantly resorting to fiction for material, "The Nest" by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney is on many best books of summer lists. It has several estate planning lessons which can be gleaned from the following plot facts (all of which are in the first 40 pages so hopefully I not spoiling anything for anyone who wants to read the book). 

A father created a trust for his four children. The trust was to be distributed when the youngest child reached the age of 40. His wife had the power to invade the trust in the event the children needed the funds earlier. One of the children had a power of attorney from his husband which allowed him to mortgage their vacation property without the husband knowing about the mortgage (trust me, I got the pronouns correct). Another child had a legal predicament which resulted in his mother lending him the entire proceeds of the trust to bail him out and hoping that he would re-pay the amount (called "the nest" by his siblings). 

Points to be learned: 

1. One should never give a power of attorney to a non-aged spouse unless it is contingent on disability. The potential for abuse is too great otherwise. 

2. This trust should have divided into separate shares either at the conception or when the children were in their early 20s. Each child could have then borrowed from his or her share only, if necessary, rather than from the entire trust. 

3. The wife/mother of the children should not have had the power to distribute all of the funds without being held to a prudent investor standard. 

4. Of course, if there had been good estate planning there would not have been a novel, nor would I have a blog.




Back From California

Just returned from a four days in California Wine Country with Janice. Post to follow soon.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Broken Refrigerator

Scraping a bit for probate and will related news this week. William "Refrigerator" Perry shot to stardom as the large defensive lineman who sometimes played running back for the awesome 1985 Chicago Bears. He allegedly could dunk a basketball even though he weighed 300 pounds. He now lives in South Carolina under a legal guardianship created by his brother when he was near death 7 years ago. Fridge's son wants to remove the brother as guardian while a court has stated that the guardianship can be removed if Fridge files the appropriate paperwork. Fridge, meanwhile, spends his days drinking with various friends, walking assisted by a walker, and generally not taking care of his health.
Several points:
1. Any interested party can apply to be the guardian of another with the supporting medical documentation. The son could have applied to serve as guardian in 2009 but did not.
2. Guardians are compensated for their services. Despite the son's allegations, the $1,250 annual compensation received by the brother is not the reason he continues to serve as guardian of Fridge.
3. A guy who starts drinking first thing in the morning and is unmotivated to file paperwork to remove a guardianship likely still needs the protection of the guardianship.
4. This has bothered me for 30 years. It has always been reported that Fridge could dunk a basketball. How hard would it have been to ask him to do it? It is not as if basketball courts are as scarce in this country as bobsled courses.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Who Is Philthy?

Phil Taylor, also known as Philthy Animal, was the drummer for Motorhead. He died of liver failure last November. Prior to his death, he divorced his wife of 15 years who he had not seen since several weeks after their wedding.  He also omitted her from his will. His estate was rumored to be worth $10 million.
Stretching to make several points:
1. In Ohio, a spouse can elect to receive 1/3 of the assets passing through the probate estate even if omitted from the will.
2. A former spouse has no statutory rights so Taylor was wise to finalize the divorce prior to his death.
3. I am surprised that someone with Taylor's reputation for wild behavior was able to organize his affairs to divorce his long missing spouse and prepare a will omitting her, just in case, prior to his death.
4. $10 million is a lot of money for the drummer of the 'worst band in the world". Of course, the Kardashians are Exhibit A that talent and net worth are not correlated.