Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Man For Others

My friend, and mentor, Bill Keating, Jr. died earlier today. As a graduate of St. Xavier High School he truly exemplified the school's motto of "men for others."

Bill was not only a Hall of Fame swimmer at UC and St. X, but also championed women's athletics and athletics for the disabled. I had heard, but forgotten, that when he was a senior swimmer at the University of Cincinnati that he gave his scholarship back so that someone else could benefit from it. I did not know that he donated his first paycheck as a lawyer to UC as gratitude for the education he received and the friendships he made.  I do know that when I told him that Jack was applying to St. X, he immediately offered to write a letter of recommendation for him.

His "Thoughts of the Day" which were intended as a means of staying in touch with his son when he left for college were eventually distributed to thousands of people every day and then forwarded from there. My children were recipients of the forwarded advice hundreds of times.

I suspect that I will read tomorrow's final Thought of the Day with a bit of moistness in my eyes.
The City of Cincinnati, and I, will definitely miss him.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Not All Step Mothers Are Evil

A British farmer died and left his second wife of nine years the sum of $155,000.  He left each of his sons from a prior marriage the sum of $81,000.  The sons contested the will by arguing that their father, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease for 20 years,  was incompetent when he made the will.  The argued that his prior will which left his wife the sum of $125,000 was his real will.  After years of litigation, and $250,000 of legal fees, the court ruled that his last will was valid and that all of the legal fees for the will contest were to be paid by the sons, not the estate.   In his ruling, the judge stated the sons were unreasonable and frivolous for fighting over such a small amount which was motivated by their dislike of their mother.   

Several non-pithy points:

1.  The sons were simply expressing their disdain for their dad’s second wife by fighting over such a small amount and likely hoping to force their step-mother to spend her entire inheritance on legal fees.  Bleed her dry, if you will.

2.  Unlike the U.S. where each party is responsible for his own legal fees, the British system allows the loser to pay the legal fees of all parties.

3.  Editorializing a bit here, I have never understood the visceral dislike or animosity towards second spouses.  From a child’s point of view, I embraced my mom’s second husband because he was able to provide her companionship, someone to travel and dine with, a social life, and mental stimulation.  He was also able to assist her with her medical needs, whether they were doctor appointments or recovering from surgeries or illnesses (the same applies times two for the woman my father in law has dated for five years - she is an angel).  I never viewed him as a replacement for my father, but simply as a good man in the next chapter of my mom’s life.  Sadly, I do not think enough children view their parent’s second spouse in a similar manner.  These British guys were twits in not appreciating the woman who took care of their ailing father to the best of her abilities. 

                                                       
                                          Photo Copyright:  Paul Keogh
                                          License:  Fair Use/Education

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Morning Line - March Madness

I subbed for Paul Daugherty's The Morning Blog again yesterday in the Cincinnati Enquirer. I covered a bit of March Madness, the firing of Indiana's Tom Crean, and the Bengals free agency moves (or lack thereof). I hope you enjoy it.





War and Peace

Audrey Hepburn died in 1993.  She left her personal belongings, including costumes, scarves, hats, scripts, awards, and other memorabilia, equally to her two sons.  They in turn loaned the memorabilia to a charity to display.  After one of the sons ran into financial difficulties, he asked for the return of the property.  He and his brother were unable to agree on how to divide the property so they went to court.  They just settled their dispute last week.

Several brief points:

1.  Most disputes about estate administration that I see are about the personal belongings and not the money.  Oddly.  And sadly.

2.  In Ohio, people can easily specify which child or beneficiary is to receive a particular item by leaving a written document as a will companion so stating.

3.  In Hepburn's case, I feel sorry for anyone fighting over 25+ year old scarves and hats even if they once belonged to a famous person.


                                    Photo Copyright:  Paramount/REX/Shutterstock
                                                License:  Fair Use/Education

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Modern Love

Lawyers handling the estate of David Bowie have set a date of May 4 for anyone claiming to be a child of Bowie's or a creditor of his estate to file a claim. The "child" part is important because the allegedly once bi-sexual Bowie left 1/4 of his estate to each of his two acknowledged children and half to his wife. The issue is that Bowie claimed to have been "incredibly promiscuous" during the 70's and 80's. His romances are alleged to have included Mick Jagger's former girlfriend (Marianne Faithfull), Mick's ex-wife (Bianca), Mick himself, Susan Sarandon, Charlie Chaplin's widow (Oona O'Neill), and Slash's mom. And your childhood best friend's mom. Or dad.
Several brief points:
1. Under Ohio law (and Bowie would be the last person to claim residence in Ohio), creditors have six months from the date of death to file a claim against the estate for money owed by the decedent.
2. Illegitimate children generally can only claim from their dad's estate if they were acknowledged by the decedent or if the child proves paternity after the death of the decedent.
3. In drafting estate documents for the Thin White Duke, it would have been best to specifically name the children rather than use the term "my child" which opens the door for illegitimate children to inherit.
4. The good part of May-December romances (i.e. Oona O'Neill) or bi-sexual couplings (yeah, we are looking at you, Mick), is that paternity is not a concern.
5. Bowie definitely knew about the power of charm, but he never let love walk on by.


                                               Photo copyright:  ZZ/NJ/RY/REX/Shutterstock
                                               License:   Fair Use/Education 

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