Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

Taking a break from people fighting over estates, let us remember those who fought for us and our country.  I read the following for the first time this weekend and found it to be poignant about the sacrifices of our military men and women.

"It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country, in defense of us, in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray haired. But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives -- the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to be revered old men. They gave up everything for our country, for us. And all we can do is remember."

President Reagan, 1985


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Big Tips and Big Bequests

Late NYC art dealer, Robert Ellsworth, was in the news recently because he left $50,000 in his will to two waitresses at his favorite restaurant. He also left $10 million, a house in Connecticut,  and $5,000/month to his boyfriend of 50 years who was 17 when he moved in with Ellsworth  The boyfriend is challenging the will because of bequests made in trust to various charities, including Harvard, which would result in the estate planning attorney earning fees for serving as trustee of the trusts.  The boyfriend alleges that Ellsworth was suffering from dementia when he revised his will to include the charities.

Several points:

1.  Presumably a prior will made by Ellsworth was more favorable to the boyfriend because it would be reinstated if the most recent will is declared invalid.

2.  $10 million and $5K/month seems generous, but is barely 5% of Ellsworth's $200 million estate.

3.  Regarding the attorney serving as trustee of the charitable trusts, I generally decline to serve as executor or trustee for my clients because of perceived conflicts of interest.

4.  If Cher could live with Sonny when she was 16, I guess it was then socially acceptable for the 17 year old boyfriend to move in with the then 37 year old Ellsworth.  Now, Ellsworth would be arrested for being involved with a minor, unless he was Doug Hutchison and she was Courtney Stodden.

5.  With its $32 billion endowment, can we all agree that Harvard does not need a nickel more and should use its endowment to lower its tuition?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Thrill Is Gone

While BB King is in hospice care, three of his eleven surviving children were in court last week trying to wrest the dying man’s power of attorney from his long time manager.  The court found that there was no evidence to support the family members’ claims of physical neglect or misuse of funds.  The judge further stated that Mr. King is competent and can make his own decisions to change his care providers if he desires.

Several points:

1.  This seems like a battle with little at stake for the family because the power of attorney will cease to be effective upon Mr. King’s death. Essentially, his children are incurring large legal bills for control of his affairs for the next two weeks.   

2.  Even appropriate planning, such as implementing financial and health care powers of attorney, cannot prevent disputes among family members when money is involved. 

3.  With eleven surviving children, and four deceased children, I suspect that the administration of his estate will be neither quick nor smooth.    



Happy Mother's Day to Janice and All Moms


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Bury and Not Shred?

A NH woman was sentenced to up to 3 years in jail for digging up the body of her father last year.  He died in 2004.  The woman was miffed that she had been omitted from her father's will and was convinced her that her family had buried her father's real will with his body.  She did not find a will but reportedly found a bottle of vodka and a pack of cigarettes in his coffin.

Several points:

1.  I offer to retain the original wills and trusts for my clients.  I never suspected that preventing grave robbing is a good reason for doing so.

2. The deceased was survived by his wife.  It would have been unlikely for a daughter to inherit anything upon his death while her mother survived.

3.  The father would have had good reason to disinherit a daughter who was obsessed with exhuming his body for 10 years while claiming she was doing it for him.

4.  For some reason, the woman never thought that a shredder would be a more effective way for a family to dispose of an unwanted will.
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Saturday, April 25, 2015

And This Is a Bad Idea?

China's Ministry of Culture has vowed to crack down on the presence of strippers at funerals.  Apparently, strippers are used to bolster attendance at the funerals.  A well attended funeral is considered a positive sign for the after life of the deceased.

Three quick points:

1.  It is rare when "culture" and "strippers" are used in the same sentence,

2.   China might now be eclipsing the US culturally in addition to economically.

3.  Janice has permission to have strippers at my funeral so come one, come all.