Monday, December 5, 2016

Once a Deceiver

Robert Oesterland and Sarah Pursglove made an enormous fortune in various business such as promising people credit cards, forming membership style clubs for various items such as DVDs, and selling web browser toolbars promising to remove computer viruses. When Pursglove started divorce proceedings, Oesterland swore in court that he was only worth several million dollars. Although Pursglove was unaware of their financial details, she knew they had several assets alone worth more than that, including a $30 million Toronto penthouse and a yacht that cost several million dollars annually to operate. When Pursglove started investigating their finances, she discovered they were difficult to determine because of the opacity provided by the use of myriad LLCs and trusts in tax haven destinations. The divorce is still on-going.

Several points:

1. Wealthy individuals use off-shore trusts to protect their wealth from creditors as an advanced form of asset protection planning.

2. Wealthy individuals also use off-shore trusts to hide their assets from taxation in an illegal form of tax avoidance.

3. It is no surprise that a man who made money by signing people up for memberships that continually charged their credit cards, promised credit cards to people but only gave them a list of credit card companies, and sold browser toolbars with no benefits would deceive his wife in divorce proceedings.


                                         Illustration from New York Times
                                         License:  Fair Use for Education Purposes

Friday, November 25, 2016

When Plans Work Out

The below photo is from the front page of today's Cincinnati Enquirer. Jack, in yellow, and his St. X teammates wanted to run all out for 400 yards in the Turkey Day Race so they could be in the lead and "make the paper." Somehow, that plan came to fruition. I love the smiles and the gap to the pack.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

His Prerogative

A Bobbi Kristina Brown update. An Atlanta judge ruled earlier today that Nick Gordon, the boyfriend of Bobbi Kristina Brown, is liable for $36 million in damages to her estate and to her father, Bobby Brown, for allegedly causing her death by providing her the drugs in her body at the time of her death and for assaulting her. The judge determined the amount of damages after Gordon stopped appearing in the case a year ago and the estate was awarded a default judgment (because Gordon stopped participating in the case) in September.

Only two points:

1. Gordon does not have the funds to pay the judgment and will likely declare bankruptcy to avoid paying them.

2. There is no word on when Bobby Brown will be held liable for providing drugs to, and ruining the career of, Whitney Houston.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Singing Will

Taking a break from celebrity and other newsworthy estate planning items, I ran across an interesting article in the NYT this weekend. The writer discussed having an end of life playlist to listen to on one's deathbed. He mentioned how Benedictine monks always chanted, perhaps for a week, around a dying monk, and how music has long provided comfort to others dying. He then discussed songs on his playlist.
A couple of quick thoughts:
1. Of course this does not work for people dying a sudden, unexpected death.
2. As your tastes change, you would have to revise your list lest you be stuck listening to "Funky Town" while dying.
3. One could skip the playlist idea and simply play Sufjan Steven's "Carrie and Lowell" and "Casmir Pulaski Day" on repeat.
4. Thankfully this idea was not idea was not around when I was younger or I would have had Head East's "Never Been Any Reason" on my list although the lyric "save my life going down for the last time" would be tastelessly appropriate.


Friday, November 4, 2016

Monday, October 24, 2016

Between a Rock and Hard Place


Bill Cornwell lived in a Greenwich Village brownstone with his same sex partner for 50 years. When he died two years ago, his will left the building and all of his possessions to his partner. However, the will was only witnessed by one individual while NY law requires two witnesses. Without a valid will, his estate will pass to his closest living relatives who are his nieces and nephews who recently sold the building for $7 million. The partner has since filed suit trying to prove that he and Mr. Cornwell were actually married, although they were not, so he can be considered the closest heir.

So many points and such short attention spans:

1. All wills require two witnesses not related to the individual and who will not receive any assets under the will.

2. Using a DIY will kit could lead to problems with properly executing wills (among other issues)

3. The legal arguments made by the partner verge on stupid. One of them is that even though they lived in NY, which does not recognize common law marriage, they bought a dog in Pennsylvania in 1991 as a symbol of their commitment to each other and because Pennsylvania used to recognize common law marriage they should be considered as married.

4. The 85 year old partner would be better off dropping the law suit and accepting the offer of the nieces and nephews to live in the apartment for 5 years at a monthly rental of $10 and receive $250,000 upon the sale of the building.

5. The entire problem could have been avoided if they had simply married each other once gay marriage became legal.

6. One niece claimed, apparently with a straight face, that her uncle did not want his partner to inherit or he would have properly executed the will. She also suggested that perhaps the men were just friends or great companions. The address of the rock under which she lives is unknown.



Monday, October 17, 2016

Married Without Children

In lieu of much newsworthy, I will resort to the evergreen story of the seemingly penniless senior citizen who left a large bequest to a charity in his will. Ken Millen was born in Aberdeen, WA, attended Grays Harbor College there, worked as shoe salesman until the store went out of business in the '80s, and always lived in the house in which he was born. He inherited some funds 20 years ago from a brother who was an attorney in the South. When Millen died last year, he left some crappy personal property, including his 1979 car, to his neighbors who treated him like a family member. He left the remaining $1 million to his alma mater. The neighbors ended up hauling most of the personal belongings to the dump because they were worthless.

A few non-legal points:

1. As heart warming as these stories are portrayed, they are actually somewhat bothersome in that an individual who was treated decently and warmly by neighbors for years eschews leaving them any funds in lieu of giving it to an institution he attended 65 years ago but likely did not have much present contact with.

2. Estate planning attorneys need to do a better job with clients without living relatives to guide them to leaving some meaningful assets to important individuals in their lives rather than faceless institutions. 

3. Mercifully Grays Harbor College does not have a football team so the bequest cannot be wasted on an unnecessary scoreboard.

4. To quote Aberdeen's most famous resident: "I found it hard, it's hard to find, Oh well, whatever, never mind."