Rapper Nate Dogg's $200,000 estate moved one step closer to being settled after his wife (step-mother to his children) and his mother ceded control of the estate to a neutral 3rd party at the request of his children. Mr. Dogg died in March 2011 without a will at the age of 41, leaving a wife and 6 children whose ages are unascertainable in a cursory web search. His wife and mother had sought to be appointed co-executors, but his children believed they were only motivated by financial gain and did not have the best interest of the children at heart.
Lessons to be learned:
1. Everyone, even rappers, need a will. The issue of executors would not have arisen because the will would have appointed someone to serve in that role.
2. A funded trust would have been better because this entire dispute, or at least the financial end of it, might have remained shielded from the public.
3. $200K estate for a rapper? The music business is tough for everyone this century. However, 6 children, a socially appropriate level of bling, and no solo releases for 9 years could drain assets quickly.
Schmuck of the year finalist. An NY man and woman were married for 30 years. 8 years prior to his death, man obtained an uncontested divorce on grounds that his wife abandoned him. Man continued to live with woman for duration of his life. Wife did not discover divorce documents until cleaning up his finances post-death. Wife claimed that they had been happy. She was aware that he had tried to sell a house previously without informing her.
As a widow, she was entitled to his pension and perhaps other benefits. As an ex-wife, she was not entitled to those and he could leave them to his children (or mistress). She was able to successfully overturn the divorce and fend off the claims of his children from a prior marriage.
Lessons to be learned:
1. If a spouse is ill, it behooves the other spouse to stay married because a widow is generally better positioned financially than an ex-wife of the husband/ex-husband.
2. If a spouse tries to sell a house without telling the other spouse, the trust level in the marriage should become zero.
3. One woman's apparently happy marriage can be another man's misery.
To avoid the rigors of a guardianship and probate court supervision, an individual should
have a financial power of attorney and health care power of attorney. However, selecting the person to manage those
responsibilities is important.
What we can learn from Zsa Zsa's situation is that a husband
is not always the best choice to serve as fiduciary especially if he if he wants the 94 year old to
have a baby, has adopted several adult men, and has claimed to father Anna
Nicole Smith's daughter.
Among fun facts about wills (yes, there are some) are that the longest will ever probated was over 1,000 pages long, the shortest wills were 3 words, and among famous Americans who died without a will were Sonny Bono, John Denver, and Chris Farley. I find the last fact interesting because all sexagenarians should have a will (much less sexagenarians who ski alone in trees) as should anyone engaged in high risk activities like flying experimental aircraft or heavy cocaine usage while being overweight. Perhaps lapses of judgments with respect to mortality cross over into lapses of judgment about tending to personal affairs.
Some good and some silly advice for dealing with pets after death. The good is to think about a pet trust to provide financially for a pet after death. The silly is to name the pet in a will, which I have never done in 25 years of drafting wills. The sillier is to carry a "pet card" in a wallet so if one is struck by a car or has a heart attack, authorities will know that there is a pet at home that needs care. No word on whether one should leave the Best Buy Rewards Zone card, Staples Rewards card, or airline frequent flyer card out of the wallet to make room for the "pet card."
For those who did not jump off a cliff after Tuesday's election results, they have an opportunity over the next six weeks to take advantage of the current estate and gift tax laws before the U.S. is pushed over the fiscal cliff. I am afraid that I agree with the following: " "The estate tax environment is going to change dramatically. You have six weeks to get this done. The estate taxes will not be this favorable for the rest of our natural lives. So for clients in that bracket, this is a pretty critical six weeks."
For wealthy individuals, gifting assets to children or a trust for children is a great strategy. Also, for individuals with older parents, whether wealthy or not, this is the time to gift.
A quick Sherman Hemsley update. If you remember, the body of the Jefferson's star has been in an El Paso funeral home while his girlfriend and a man alleging to be his brother argue over the disposition of it. A DNA test revealed the man to be his brother, but that fact does not give the man control of the body and has been excluded from evidence. A trial to determine who has the authority to bury the body is set for tomorrow. It is a toss up on whether this case or the Florida election results will be resolved first.
George Lucas' sale of Lucasfilms to Disney is being touted
as an estate planning move because his heirs no longer have to be concerned
about running the company after his death.It can also be considered an income tax move because he is taking
advantage of the 15% capital gains tax rate before it is increased to 20% on
January 1.I think it is a creative move
because the Star Wars franchise has to rebound from the nadir of Jar Jar Binks
and the 3 most recent episodes.