Thursday, February 22, 2018

Give It Up or Turnit Loose

James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, died in 2006. His estate is still unsettled due to myriad lawsuits. He had intended to leave $2 million for scholarships for his grandchildren, memorabilia to his children, and the rest to a charity for scholarships for children from SC and Georgia.

Lawsuits have involved whether a woman should have been trustee, whether people should have been removed as trustee, the paternity of a son, and the validity of Brown's marriage (his wife reportedly was married at the time of their marriage) plus the run of the mill will contest suits. The most recent suit involves whether his wife could sell the rights to his songs.

Two points:

1. There are no good lessons here. If heirs want to fight, they will find reasons to fight and no planning can prevent that.

2. I always preferred the music of Brown's contemporaries, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, both who died tragically young. One benefit of dying young is that there is no large estate to fight over nor large family to fight.

Photo Credit:  Michael Holahan/Augusta Chronicle, via Associated Press and linked NYT article
License:  Fair Use/Education


Back from a father/son ski trip and somewhat back from the February blahs. Post to follow soon.

Not All Tattoos Are Pointless

When an unconscious Florida man was brought to a hospital without identification but a tattoo that said “Do Not Resuscitate” and a signature, doctors were surprisingly faced with what to do with the dying man. They first thought they should disregard the tattoo because it might not reflect his current wishes because he might have gotten it when drunk. An ethicist later over-ruled the doctors and said that his tattooed wishes must be respected.The man eventually died. An NYU ethicist quoted in the article said that people should carry their health care directives with them to prevent these problems.
Several points:
1. Sad that the hospital was at first going to ignore something as obvious as the man’s tattooed wishes. Even if he were drunk when he obtained the tattoo, he could have remembered to remove it any time whenever he saw himself and the tattoo in a mirror.
2. I have scans of all my clients’ documents and have occasionally been asked to send them to a hospital while I have been out of town. The cloud can be a tremendous tool.
3. Carrying one’s health care directives in case of emergency seems like an extreme command by the ethicist especially in the case of homeless folks who are simply trying to push a cart with their blankets and clothes and looking for food. Neatly preserved health care directives would seem to be low on the priority list.
4. Moving beyond homeless folks, asking folks to carry their health care directives while they run to CVS or Sam’s Club seems burdensome. This is further proof that the academic world is not the real world.

Photo Credit:  New England Journal of Medicine
License:  Fair Use/Education

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Morning Line Again

I subbed for Paul Daugherty's The Morning Line blog in the Cincinnati Enquirer again yesterday. The only topic was Mike Brown's management of the Cincinnati Bengals. I will not be receiving Christmas cards from his family anytime soon.
I hope you enjoy it.

Photo Credit:  Kareem Elgazaar for the Cincinnati Enquirer
License:  I wrote the linked article for the Cincinnati Enquirer   :)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

It’s Not Right But It’s Okay

The estate of Whitney Houston settled its dispute with the IRS over outstanding estate taxes.  The IRS had contended that the valuation of Houston’s back catalog and image and likeness was undervalued by $22 million resulting in $11 million of additional taxes.  The settlement was for $2 million.  Oddly, or perhaps not given the state of journalism in 2017, the focus of most articles was on the value of her image and likeness but the IRS and the estate differed on that valuation by only $200K.

A few small points:

1.  Since the death of Michael Jackson, the IRS has been taxing the image and likeness of dead celebrities with the value based on expected licensing revenues in the future.

2.  Cool fact - Robin Williams said that his likeness cannot be used for 40 years after his death rendering its value worthless.

3.  In the age of streaming music, the longer the estate held out the less valuable the back catalog of albums became.

4.  This was purely a principled, but unemotional, victory for the estate.  Houston’s daughter died nearly 3 years ago and Houston was divorced.  Any estate tax savings will benefit her mother and her brothers.

Photo Credit: Asterio Tecson/Flickr and Wikimedia Commons
License:  Fair Use/Education

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Not About the Sport Coats

Craig Sager was a beloved basketball reporter who died last year from cancer.  He was known for his colorful sport coats and bantering with Gregg Popovich, coach of the Spurs.  He was divorced and re-married at the time of his death with children from both wives.  His will is being probated in Georgia.  It reportedly left everything to his second wife, Stacy. 

His son from his first marriage tweeted yesterday that he was being summoned to court by a sheriff to prevent him from contesting the will even though he was not interested in contesting in the first place.  His sister, Kacy, defended her brother while also flaming her step-mother and tweeted a list of grievances.  Seeing a moment in the sun, the former girlfriend of the son felt compelled to jump into the fray and call the step-mother a POS in typical coarse social media parlance. 

Several points:

1.  Georgia is similar to Ohio in that when a will is admitted to probate all of the heirs at law (spouse and children) plus all of the will beneficiaries are required to receive notice of the probate proceedings via certified mail.

2.  The son from the first marriage and his sisters were simply receiving the legally required notice.

3.  Given the lapse between the date of death of Sager’s death and the date of this process, it is likely that most of his assets were in a trust and that a small account was titled only in his name and hence subject to the probate process.

4.  Sager might have excluded his children from his first marriage due to their hostility to his second wife and/or their over-reaction to legal events.

5.  Hostility to second wives can be avoided if they are age appropriate and their names do not rhyme with that of one’s daughters.     

Happy New Year

From Marco Island.