Sunday, February 19, 2017

Treasure Hunt

The State of Ohio is holding an auction this Friday and Saturday to sell the contents of abandoned safe deposit boxes to make room for additional items in the Unclaimed Funds department.  The items include Kruggerands, silver bars, coins, and currency. This is the first auction of this type since 1998.  The state has had some of the items in its possession since 1968.

A few brief points:

1.  Some of the abandoned boxes belonged to decedents.  I always advise my clients to notify their executors of the location of any safe deposit boxes to prevent them being lost.

2.  The State of Ohio currently has $2.3 billion in unclaimed funds it is holding for their rightful owners.  Those funds can be claimed by completing a form on the Ohio Department of Commerce website.

3.  Almost 50 years since the state found some of these items?  The wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly.
                                          Photo Credit:  Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch
                                          License:  Fair Use/Education

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Don't Do It His Way

When Frank Sinatra, Jr. died last March, he was embroiled in divorce litigation with his ex-wife, Cynthia.  When they divorced in 2001, he was ordered to pay her $5,000 per month for a year.  Sinatra continued to voluntarily make those payments for an additional 10 years until he was financially unable to do so.  Rather than show gratitude, his ex-wife filed for a second divorce claiming that they were in a common law marriage in Texas because he continued to refer to her as his wife both on stage and privately.  

Sinatra actually lived in California, paid California income taxes while he could have avoided taxes if he were a Texas resident (Texas does not have an income tax), and filed federal gift tax returns for the payment to his ex (transfers to spouses are not subject to gift taxes).  Nonetheless, a Texas court ruled that they were married and awarded her $500,000, half of his $4.5 million house, and $5,000/month for another year.  Sinatra died during the appeal which was ultimately decided posthumously in his favor. 

So many possible points, but let’s stay with a few.

1.   Only 15 states recognize common law marriages.  Ohio is not one of them.

2.  To have a common law marriage, couples must agree that they are married, tell others that they are married, and live together in the state which recognizes common law marriages.

3.  If Sinatra was filing income tax returns as a California resident and filing federal gift tax returns for the payments to Cynthia, he did not consider her his wife.

4.  Being a gentleman got Sinatra nowhere - he was trying to be considerate of Cynthia by not referring to her as his “former wife.”  If he had to do it again, I suspect he would introduce her as “my EX-wife, hear that?  My EX-wife.”


                                          Photo:  Michael Ochs Archives
                                                                     License:  Fair Use/Education

Back In Town

Apologies for the sporadic posting. There is not much happening in the world of celebrity wills and trusts, plus I was out of town for six days on the annual guys ski trip. Pic below, post to follow.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

It's A Life Estate, Dahling

When Zsa Zsa Gabor died prior to Christmas, it was announced that her 9th husband had 90 days to vacate the Bel Air house she had owned since 1973. She had tried to sell the house several years ago, but finally accepted a lower offer in 2013 on the condition that she be allowed to reside there for the rest of her life. Now that she has died, her residency has terminated and her widower must move. The buyer will allegedly tear down the house.
A few minor points:
1. This arrangement is known as a life estate. Given her paralysis and amputations, I doubt the buyer thought she would live 3 more years.
2. Hugh Hefner allegedly has a similar arrangement for the famed Playboy Mansion.
3. Crazy times we live in when an $11 million property is a tear down.
                                         Photo copyright:  Axelle/BG/GolfPhotos.com
                                         License:  Fair Use/Education 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Bad Mom

Ken Thompson was the Brooklyn District Attorney who died of cancer in October.  Two weeks prior to his death, he allegedly changed his will to omit any bequest to his mother and instead left his estate in trust for his wife and 2 young children.  

His mother is contesting the will alleging that he did not know what he was doing due to his illness.  As support for her theory, she argues that Thompson was unhappy with his marriage because of the amount of money his wife was spending.

Three quick points:

1.  It is anything but unusual for a man with young children to leave his entire estate to his wife and children.  Providing for a mother is what would be unusual.  

2.  The creation of trusts to assist his wife with financial management of the inheritance shows mental clarity not lack of mental capacity.

3.   If Thompson was unhappy with his wife’s spending, he is in the majority of husbands.

                                         License:  Fair Use/Educational Purpose
                                         Copyright Alex Rudd/NY Daily News

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Force Pays Off

The Walt Disney Company is reportedly set to receive $50 million due to the death of Carrier Fisher. Disney owns Star Wars and had taken out an insurance policy on Fisher in the event she was unable to complete the new three film trilogy. Filming had wrapped on Episode VIII but Episode IX, due in 2019, will need a script re-write.

Several minor points:

1. The insurance on Fisher is a form of "key man" insurance which many companies purchase on the lives of their valuable employees to protect the company in the event of the death of the employee.

2. $50 million seems excessive given the limited role that Fisher played in The Force Awakens.

3. The insurance carrier is likely wishing that it had rather insured the life of Harrison Ford, whose Han Solo died during Episode VII, and who will not appear in any more episodes.

                                          Photo Copyright:  REX/Walt Disney/Shutterstock/Robot
                                                   License:  Fair Use/Educational Purposes

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year

Apparently I am only in the seasons' greetings business. Celebrity estate planning blogging to pick up soon. Best wishes for the new year.