Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

Darlene Love singing "Baby, Please Come Home" for the final time on Letterman.  May your Christmas be stand on the piano and belt it merry.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

All Dogs Go to Heaven

The will of a Cincinnati area woman is in the national news because it provides that her nine year old German Shepherd mix was to be destroyed and its ashes mixed with hers if a friend did not take the dog or the dog did not go to an Utah shelter for orphaned animals. The friend has declined to care for the aggressive dog who needs muzzling around strangers and the Utah shelter costs $40,000. Animal lovers are horrified about the likely euthanization of the dog and are pillorying the deceased woman in the media. 

Several points: 

1. Ohio law allows pet trusts. An individual is designated to take care of the animal(s) and someone else manages the funds for the care of the animal. I have drafted quite a few of these in the past 2 years. 

2. With the thousands of animals killed daily in shelters, I think the critics' ire is misdirected when trying to save an elderly Cujo. 

3. If the legal proceedings last very long, the dog will reach its life expectancy (10 years for German Shepherds) and die of natural causes.  Time is a friend of people and the dog.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Is Wisconsin a County in Florida?

A 19 year old Wisconsin man murdered a Milwaukee area businessman in 1971.  After being sentenced to life in prison, he escaped prison in 1978, assumed the name of deceased child, established a trouble free life in Florida as a businessman himself, and eventually married in 1996.  Only when his wife pestered him for his birth certificate so he could obtain a passport did his life unravel and  she filed for divorce.  He committed suicide in 2011 five days after being asked to testify under oath about his real name.  The family of his murder victim recently filed suit to re-open his estate so they could file a claim against the estate because the estate did not publish a notice of his death in a Wisconsin paper.

Several points:

1.  Unless there was a wrongful death lawsuit and judgment, I am not sure what claim the victim's family has against the estate 40 years after the murder.

2.  Ohio requires creditors to file a claim against an estate within six months of the date of death without exception.

3.  Ohio does not require publication of any notice for estate creditors.

4.  Florida does require publication of notice for creditors but only in the county of the decedent's residence, not in other counties and presumably not in other states, including Wisconsin.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Stuck Between Worlds?

In the non-story of the year, Patrick Swayze died in 2009 at which time he owned real estate in New Mexico.  His widow, Lisa Niemi, recently filed a will to transfer the real estate to their joint trust.  Swayze's family members believe that the will was possibly forged because they did not receive any of his $40 million estate.  They contend that the signature does not look like his and that he was admitted to the hospital that day before dying two months later.

Several points:

1.  It is rare for someone to include parents and siblings in a will when one has a spouse (and children).  It is also possible that the trust provided for his family members.

2.  It would not be far fetched for his handwriting to become unrecognizable after  suffering from pancreatic cancer for 18 months.

3.  Who knew "Ghost" could be real?  In a turn of events, even without the help of Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg), Swayze's family is channeling the greed of Sam Wheat's  frenemy, Carl Bruner.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

The NYT reported yesterday on the administration of the the estate of Maurice Sendak, author of the beloved "Where the Wild Things Are". One of the 3 executors is his caretaker and housekeeper of 30 years (the other 2 are his attorney and the longtime production manager for his publisher). Together they decided to withdraw 10,000 books previously lent to the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia.  The museum has since sued the estate claiming that original Beatrix Potter books ("The Tale of Peter Rabbit") and William Blake owned by Sendak are not children's books and should be given to the museum per his will which left his children's books to his foundation.   The bulk of the estate will create a museum and study center from his house and a foundation to support emerging artists.

Several points:

1.  Before the NYT ran corrections to the article, I was going to emphasize how important the selection of an executor is.  Sendak realized that by naming 3 executors of  his large estate.

2.  One of the last things we need in this country is another home turned into museum of an artist/author.  We have 15,000 already, most of which are underfunded and rarely visited (only 2,300 visitors to the Flannery O'Connor museum this year so far).

3.  The argument of the Rosenbach Museum that books by Beatrix Potter are not children's books is specious.  No adult reads her works when not reading bedtime stories to children.

4.  Before the lawyers roar their terrible roars, gnash their terrible teeth, and roll their terrible eyes, they should concede that the works of William Blake are not children's books (pictures aside) and appeal only to a small segment of adults who are impervious to the misspelling of "Tiger."

Hat tip to Julie Engebrecht for forwarding the NYT article to me.

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ex-Spouses Are Dead

A Naples, FL police officer shot his girlfriend before killing himself.  His ex-wife, whom he divorced in 2013, was the designated beneficiary of his police pension.  He had made the designation in 2004 during happier times.  Florida passed a law in 2012 which provides that if a divorced person fails to change the beneficiary of an asset post-divorce, the ex-spouse will be treated as deceased and not entitled to the asset.  Of course,  the ex-wife is contesting the applicability of the statute and claiming the pension benefits.

Several points:

1.  Ohio passed a similar statute in 1990.

2.  Ohio's Supreme Court later ruled that the statute was only applicable to beneficiary designations made after 1990. To hold otherwise, would have retroactively modified a contract.

3.   If spouses dislike each other enough to divorce, they should follow through to change their wills and beneficiary designations after the divorce is final to avoid leaving them assets at death.

4.  Even without the pension, the ex-wife is better off than the girlfriend who was critically injured when she was shot in the face.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Please, Please, Please (Settle This Estate)

James Brown died in 2006 and left most of his estate to charity.  A woman claiming to be his wife is contesting the will.  Tomirae Hynie and the Godfather of Soul married in 2001 but she was married to another man at the time.  She eventually had that marriage annulled in 2004, but Brown then refused to marry her because he was embarrassed about the prior marriage.   Hynie has stated that her prior marriage to her Pakistani husband was simply an immigration scam.  Brown named 6 children in his will and left out 5 others.  To benefit from his estate, the children have been ordered to submit to DNA testing to prove their parentage.  Those that pass are called DNA Proven children.

Several points:

1.  By law, spouses are entitled to a portion of a deceased spouse's estate even if not provided for in the will.  In Ohio, spouse's with more than one child will receive one-third of the estate.

2.  I have never heard the term "DNA Proven children" before.  I think it ranks with "thunder snow" as a great modern phrase.

3.  Hynie is very determined to inherit when she admits under oath to committing immigration fraud.  Although given recent events, that might not be the serious matter one would initially believe.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

World's Greatest Dad?

Robin Williams' will was admitted to probate court last week.  It provides that his entire $50 million estate will be left to a trust for the benefit of his 3 children.   The trust provides that his children will receive their inheritance in stages at the ages of 21, 25, and 30.

Several points:

1.  Net of estate taxes, each child will $10 million in installments of $3.33 million.

2.  I would never advise a client to leave such a large sum to a 21 or 25 year old - the child's initiative to become a successful, independent, adult can be stifled.

3.  I recommend more installments with increasing percentages of funds as the child ages.

4.  Williams' children will likely view their dad as the "World's Greatest Dad" but I think this trust is a "Flubber."


Monday, November 10, 2014

This Never Works, So Why Try?

Alan Hruby is the 19 year old, college freshman accused of killing his parents and 17 year old sister so he could inherit his parent's estates after they stopped supporting him financially.    The self described shopaholic who got a thrill from using credit cards was in debt to a loan shark for $3,000.  He allegedly confessed to killing his sister so he would be the sole heir.

Several quick points.

1.  A slayer statute (murderers cannot benefit from their crimes) will prevent him from inheriting any funds from his parents.

2.  The poor sister was killed because he wanted all of the estate when half was more than enough to cover the $3,000. How tragic.

3.  If one needs further proof that the adolescent brain does not fully develop until 25, just look at the 19 year upper class kid facing life in prison, or death,  without a family because of a $3,000 debt.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Public Radio

Thank you to Chris DeSimio for inviting me to discuss estate planning and inheritance issues with him yesterday on WVXU's Cincinnati Edition hosted by Mark Heyne.  The show is at the link.

Friday, October 31, 2014

News You Can Use - Estate Tax Exemption for 2015

The IRS announced that the estate tax exemption for 2015 will increase from $5.34 million to $5.43 million.  This is the amount that can be left estate tax free to heirs.  Those taxpayers suffering from dyslexia will see little difference.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Touch of Tears (and Cincinnati Pride)

Check out the article in Cincinnati Magazine about how various people assisted the family of the slain owner of Cosmic Pizza after his murder during a robbery last year.  The willingness of  strangers  and acquaintances to step up and help will moisten your eyes.  Cincinnati residents always look out for their own.  Props to everyone who assisted the Evans family.  


Monday, October 13, 2014

Blood Money

Josh Powell is the Utah man who presumably killed his wife in 2009 and concocted an improbable story to explain her disappearance (he took his young sons on an impromptu camping trip at midnight on a snowy, December night).  During a custody dispute with his wife's parents, he locked himself in a cabin, hatcheted his sons to death, and blew up the cabin immolating himself in 2012.  His brother, who was suspected of helping him dispose of his wife's body, committed suicide a year later.  His father, who exhibited odd behavior after the wife's disappearance, served two years for voyeurism after authorities found pictures of neighborhood girls and women on his computer.

This case is back in the news because the Powell family and the Cox family are squabbling over the sizable life insurance proceeds on the lives of Powell and his wife.  A trust created by Susan Powell is the beneficiary of the policy on her life.  The trust presumably provided that if her husband and son were not living that the proceeds were to be divided between the Powell family and the Cox family.  Her father as conservator of her estate changed the trust in 2013 to provide that only the Cox family would benefit from the trust.  Josh Powell designated his now deceased brother as the beneficiary of his policy after his wife's disappearance.  His brother and sister are fighting the Cox family for those benefits.

Whew.  Several points:

1.  Bad facts make bad law.  On the face it seems that no one in the Powell family should benefit from the misdeeds of their family member but the law correctly applied provides otherwise and the families should divide the insurance proceeds, or at least keep the proceeds from the policy on their respective family member and have the trust proceeds evenly divided per the trust terms.

2.   It is crazy to think that someone acting on behalf of another person who the law presumes is alive but everyone else know is dead can change the trust created by that person three years after the date she died.

3.  The honorable action for the Powell family members would be to walk away from this.  However, when one brother is a murderer, the other is a conspirator, and the father is a convicted voyeur, all shame is already in the public sphere so they might as well see if they can grab some money, consequences and public opinion be damned.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Curious Case of Brangelina

Not being a reader of People magazine, I missed the news of the Brad Pitt- Angelina Jolie August wedding.  I had assumed they were married years ago.  Apparently they executed a fairly public pre-nuptial agreement prior to their wedding.  The agreement provides that in the event they divorce they will each keep their respective assets but any marital assets will mostly benefit their children and various global orphanages.  The odd provision is that in the event Mr. Pitt is unfaithful due to Ms. Jolie's children penchant for adopting children as if they were Tamagotchi, she will receive most of the custody rights for the children.

Several points:

1.  Pre-nuptial agreements are advisable in the event of second marriages or where there is disparate wealth between the parties.  When both parties are Hollywood A Listers with similar net worths, they are more for show than practical effect.

2.  The behavior clause about infidelity of Mr. Pitt is unlikely to be enforced by a court.

3.  Am I the only one who appreciates the coincidence that Mr. Pitt finally tied the knot with 
Ms. Jolie only a month before his bromance  buddy, George Clooney, married?

4.  Presumably Angelina will keep the vial of Billy Bob Thornton's blood in the event of a divorce.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Let's Get It On

In a slow news period while waiting for info on Joan Rivers' will, let's keep it in the estate arena but mix it with pop music. The estate of Marvin Gaye is battling Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams over whether "Blurred Lines" plagiarized Gaye's song "Got To Give It Up."  The case is premised on comments Thicke made that "Got To Give It Up" was one of his all time favorite songs and that he wanted to make a song like it.   After taking credit for "Blurred Lines" in interviews, in his deposition under oath Thicke later pleaded drug and alcohol abuse during the creation of "Blurred Lines" and deferred credit to Pharrell Williams as the primary songwriter.  He and Williams later sued Gaye's estate in a declaratory judgment action that they did not plagiarize the Gaye song.

Several points:

1.   Thicke and Williams should not have sued Gaye's estate.  They precipitated an unnecessary battle - if the estate thought the songs were identical, it could have sued them.

2.  I doubt Williams is feeling "Happy" after Thicke threw him under the bus after Williams gave Thicke the only reason people know him besides being the son of Alan Thicke.

3.  "Got To Give It Up" does not rank in my top 20 Gaye songs.  Thicke must have been drugged and drunk to say it is one of his all time favorites.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Blissful Ignorance?

The will of Andrew Madoff, son of Ponzi schemer Bernie, was admitted to probate court last week.  The will reportedly left his personal property valued at $11.5 million to his 2 daughters.  He left one third of  his $4.5 million of real estate to his estranged wife, and the remaining 2/3 of it  to a trust for his long time girlfriend.   His girlfriend is to receive $50,000 per month for the rest of her life.  Notably, his wife withdrew her 5+ year old divorce filing 6 months ago.  Andrew long maintained he was unaware of his father's activities even though he worked for his father's firm.

Many points:

1.  It was smart, if not cynical and financially calculating, of his wife to withdraw her divorce complaint prior to his death because assets pass to a spouse free of federal estate taxes.

2.  I suspect that he also has a funded trust because there is no way to pay his girlfriend $50K monthly for the rest of her life based on a trust with $3 million principal ($2 million after estate taxes).

3.  If there is a funded trust, it behooves the question why these $16 million of assets were not transferred to the trust prior to his death and why the will did not simply pour all assets into the trust and keep these provisions from the public eye.

4.  The karma at work in Bernie Madoff;s life is almost commensurate with the amount of money he stole - reported to the feds by the sons he protected from his scheme, estranged from them afterwards, and now both of them dead before the age of 50 while he is alive in prison at 76.      Almost commensurate.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Crazy Is As Crazy Does

A Scottish nurse falsely accused her grandfather of sexually abusing her when she was younger in an attempt to accelerate her inheritance.   After the charges were found to be bogus, she was sentenced to 22 months in jail for fabricating the claims which forced her grandfather to spend some time in jail after they were made.

Several points:

1.  Her plot was as poorly conceived as the USC football player's story about jumping off a balcony to rescue a drowning nephew.  There is no law that treats criminals as deceased and then accelerates an inheritance.

2.  While she is in jail she might wish to study a table of consanguinity and learn that even if her grandfather were dead, her grandmother would inherit his estate.  Her own parent would inherit if her grandmother were deceased.

3.  Consider it a hunch, but I suspect she will now never inherit a dime (or should I say shilling) from her grandfather.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

To Have and Have Not (a Trust)

The executors of Lauren Bacall's estate filed her will in probate court on Friday.  Her will, which she executed last fall, left her $27 million estate in equal shares to her 3 children save for a few small five figure bequests to household staff and to her son to care for her dog.    She also left $250K to each of her grandsons to be used for college with them receiving the remainder at the age of 30.

Several points:

1.  A funded trust would have provided her privacy so the public would not know about her intentions.

2.  A trust would also be a more efficient means of managing the funds for her grandsons.

3.  With college tuition increases not grounded in economic reality, I hope the $250K is enough to fully cover college expenses for her grandsons.  

 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Free Nelson Mandela's Estate

Winnie Mandela, the ex-wife of Nelson Mandela, filed a claim against his estate seeking control of his ancestral home for her daughters.  Mandela divorced Winnie in 1996 after he charged that she had been unfaithful to him during his 27 year imprisonment.  Mandela's  will left the ancestral home to his 3rd wife who later waived her right to half of his estate in exchange for  properties in her native Mozambique. Mandela's grandson later ordered the exhumation of the bodies of 3 of Mandela's children from the ancestral home, but Mandela's daughter had the bodies re-interred at the disputed home.

Several points, if I must:

1.  It is odd that an elderly mother would be the one to file a claim on behalf of her middle aged daughters.  Adolescence is seemingly prolonged every year.

2.  If the South African court system moves at the same pace as it did for the Oscar Pistorius trial, Winnie and the third wife will die before there is a resolution.

3.  Whoever can convince the various members and factions of the Mandela family to have a group hug deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

His Feet Should Be in the Ground

Casey Kasem died a month ago but his body remains unburied.  Reportedly, just prior to his daughter obtaining a court order to keep his body in the U.S., his wife had his body shipped to Montreal, the home of her alleged boyfriend.   Additionally, Jean Kasem's law firm is seeking to resign as her attorneys after she has allegedly incurred unpaid legal bills of $500,000 during her dispute with his children. The law firm has threatened to file a claim a claim against his estate for payment of its services.

Two points, if I must:

1.  Creditors of a decedent can file a claim against the estate for unpaid debts.  Services rendered on behalf of one party in a deathbed dispute are not necessarily the responsibility of the estate especially if the party loses.

2.  I would would not think too long about continuing a romantic relationship with a meat throwing and scripture quoting partner who has her deceased husband's remains shipped to my hometown.  To paraphrase Kramer on Seinfeld, "Two words, Jerry.  Break up."


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Back in Town

Just returned from 2 weeks in Spain and Morocco.  Blog post to follow.  In the meantime, here are some vacation pics of my children.












 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Up in Smoke

When jet setting heiress, Doris Duke, died in 1993 she left a small trust for her last living relative, Walker Inman, Jr.  Inman lived with her after being orphaned at the age of 13.  He had previously inherited an inflation adjusted equivalent of $350 million from other relatives when he turned 21.

Inman died of a methadone overdose in 2010.  He left his remaining fortune in trust for his now 16 year old twins.  The twins and their mother are suing the trustees of the trusts trying to determine how much money is left while complaining that the trustees they were too generous in giving money to Inman who spent $90K per month.  Meanwhile the mother is asking the trustees to buy a $29 million ranch and a $4.2 house, and reimburse her $17K for 4 days in Vegas. His fifth wife, and proverbial former topless dancer, has asked for $1.9 million.  The trustee has vetoed those requests.   The twins will receive their inheritance at 21.

Several points:

1.  21 is way too young to receive a principal distribution of any significance.  I stagger distributions in my trusts with increasing amounts over time with the first distribution at 25 and the final distribution at the age of 40.

2.  An anti-alcoholism, drugs, and gambling clause is also recommended to prevent heirs from harming themselves with their inheritance.

3.  Supposedly nothing is sadder than the tears of a clown, but I think a middle aged man dying of a drug overdose is close.   Sad meaning pitiful.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Really Dead but Virtually Alive


Ever wonder what happens to your social media accounts after death?  Most likely not, but the below chart nicely illustrates how the various providers treat them.

Three quick points:

1.  Your will should have a clause authorizing the social media provider to follow the directions of your executor.

2.  Write down your passwords and let your executor know where they are located.

3.  Even after the account is deactivated, the NSA likely has a copy of it (and your emails and phone calls) in its Utah data center.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tarnished Sterling


The trial deciding whether Shelly Sterling can sell the Los Angeles Clippers as trustee of her husband's trust will start on Monday, July 7.  Her husband, Donald Sterling, was banned from the NBA for life and fined $2.5 million after his "girlfriend" recorded him making racist statements.  After he was declared mentally incapacitated by 2 physicians, he was removed as trustee of his trust which enabled his wife to sell the team to Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.  The purchase price is the second highest for a sports franchise and is 2x the second highest American purchase.   Sterling only  paid $13.5 million in 1981.  The trial will focus on the trust terms.

Several points:

1.  The trusts I draft for my clients have similar provisions for removing a mentally incapacitated trustee.

2.  That Sterling is not accepting of the incredible $2 billion offer for a franchise known as the most inept in all of sports during his ownership tenure is evidence that he might be mentally incapacitated.

3.  His argument will be that he is not incompetent but simply racist and making a bad business decision.  He might wish to re-think that.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

The NYT blogged about a woman who left her estate to her daughters while disinheriting the children of her son who predeceased her.  Although she was suffering from dementia, two weeks before her death she re-affirmed a prior will which included the grandchildren from her dead son.  She then changed her mind five days later and excluded the grandchildren.  The grandchildren challenged the will and eventually settled for a small amount to be shared among them.   The protagonist granddaughter decried that she wished her grandmother had conversed with her about the will and that she wished her grandmother had left her wishes in a letter.

Several points:

1.   Wills may be challenged on the grounds of undue influence ("Mom, leave it to us, our dead brother's kids are never around") and lack of mental capacity (i.e. dementia).  Both grounds seem to be present in this case.  It seems that they could have fought longer for their father's share.

2.  When one's parent dies and one wishes to inherit the deceased parent's share of a grandmother's estate, constant contact, e-mails, visits, thinking of you cards, and holiday gatherings are time well spent.

3.  Contrary to the granddaughter's naive wishes, clients never tell someone they are are being disinherited much less express those wishes in a writing.  The will serves as that written document.  The woman, Kate, was smart to not use her last name lest she and her naivete be subject to ridicule by those who met her.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Fortress Around His Heart

Sting was in the news this week due to his announcement that he does not intend to leave his $300 million fortune to his six children at his death.  He believes that a trust fund would be an albatross around their necks.

Several points:

1.   I think leaving money to charities instead of the six people in the world he loves the most is over-reactive.  A trust can be structured to provide incentives to his children to work and be productive while providing  safety net for them.

2.  Most people would be willing to suffer through that albatross.

3.  $300 million is impressive for a man who has produced only unmemorable, monotone dirges in the 30 years since breaking up the Police.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The "Fun" in Funeral

Taking another break from newsworthy estate issues, the NYT reported about the beginning of a funeral trend primarily in New Orleans where the deceased is not in a coffin but is posed as if alive.  A 53 year old woman was recently posed at a table holding her cigarette with a can of Busch beer in front of her. In April, a socialite was posed sitting on a bench on a downtown theater greeting guests.

Several points:

1.  Although the Big Easy boasts of putting the fun in funeral, spectacles are not always fun but can be morbid.

2.  I suspect that the beer and cigarette depicted might have contributed to the woman's death at 53.

3. I know they were going for authenticity, but the woman was posed with a Busch beer instead of a nice microbrew as her final beer?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

No More Scooby Snacks. Or Water.

The bizarre and emotional battle over the medical care of Casey Kasem is nearing an end.  An LA County judge has authorized his daughter to have doctors withdraw his feeding tubes.  The ruling follows Kasem's wishes as expressed in his 2007 living will.  The ruling also adheres to his health care power of attorney which gave his daughter authority over his medical decisions (and not his wife).  Jean Kasem, an actress known for  playing dumb blonde roles, maintains that the daughter is sentencing him to death because she wants his money.

Several points:

1.  Usually a living will and health care power of attorney will avoid this acrimonious situation.

2.  It is too bad that the public has had to view the reason Kasem trusted his daughter with his medical decisions and not his wife.

3.  Like Kasem, I would not want someone who throws meat at others when angry in charge of my medical decisions.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Our Mortality

Taking a break from newsworthy death related issues, I found this interesting piece on causes of death by state.   If you do not want to read it, I will tell you that the most likely cause of death for Ohioans is heart disease, that we are disproportionately affected by diabetes, and that we have a higher than average rate of deaths from cancer, respiratory and kidney diseases, strokes, and  Alzheimer's.

Several points:

1.   Ohio is a cauldron of death.  It is not for estate tax reasons that people move to Florida.

2.  Bonus points for knowing the meaning of Septicemia (disproportionately represented in Texas and other Southern states).

3.  Casey Kasem is doomed.  His family should not have moved him to Washington which is disproportionately represented by deaths from Alzheimer's disease.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Class of 2014

Congratulations to my daughter, Blair, who graduated from the The Seven Hills School last night.  She will become an Indiana Hoosier in August.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Unfashionable Probate

Fashion designer Oleg Cassini became famous for designing Jackie Kennedy's pillbox hats.  He was also known for marrying actress Gene Tierney, dating Grace Kelly, and dressing Marilyn Monroe.  He died in 2006 survived by a daughter from his marriage to Gene Tierney and by his secret wife of 35 years, Marianne Nestor, who most assumed was his employee.  His will left $1 million to his daughter and the balance of his $52 million estate to his widow.  His daughter was unaware of his marriage to Ms. Nestor until after his death.   His daughter successfully contested the will on the grounds that Cassini's 1952 divorce decree from Tierney promised his daughter 25% of his estate.  Because his widow has not yet paid the sum to her, has spent estate funds without court authorization, and did not have insurance on a $30 million house that burned, the probate court has removed the widow as executrix of the estate.

Several points:

1.  Apparently a provision in a 50+ year old divorce decree where the other party is divorced trumps a will.

2.  When there is a secret marriage and the wife is only 5 years older than a daughter, I advise naming a neutral third party as executor for efficient execution of the will.

3.  When a secret marriage exists, it is doubly damaging for the child to find out about it from a hospital nurse the day her father died.

4.  In the fashion world, I doubt Yves St. Laurent, Christian Dior, and Gianni Versace had estate disputes between their wives and children.  Nor will Karl Lagerfeld.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

"Let It Go"

One of India's wealthiest Hindu spiritual leaders died in January from a presumed heart attack.  His followers placed his body in a guarded, commercial freezer on their Ashram and maintain that he has drifted to a deeper form of meditation as a pathway to self realization.  His family has asked an Indian court to order the release of the body for cremation.  The family maintains that the followers are claiming he is alive so they can retain control of his $170 million estate.

Two quick points:

1.  $170 million is nice coin for a religious leader and even more so in a country with per capita income of  $1,200.

2.  The guru's disciples might have solved the riddle of eternal life - simply freeze all dead bodies while waiting for them to return to life.  Commercial freezer manufacturers will be overjoyed, at least during this life.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Tragic Kingdom

Walt Disney's youngest daughter died in 1993 survived by her 3 children.  She left her fortune in trust for them with a provision that they would receive their inheritance in $20+ million installments at the ages of 35, 40, and 45 if they showed "maturity and the financial ability" to manage the money.  Her son, Brad,is embroiled in litigation with the trustees over their refusal to give him his installment on his 40th birthday even though they gave installments to his older sister who was allegedly addicted to heroin and died a year after receiving her first installment and to his twin sister who had suffered a brain aneurysm and never held a job.  Brad does receive $1 million annually but his step-mother allegedly wants him to receive the large distribution so the funds will be available to her children. The attorney who drafted the trust said the provision about maturity was his mother's way to never give Brad control of the funds but to still treat him the same as her daughters.

Several points:

1.   When children have different needs and abilities, parents should treat them differently in their trusts to protect the children.

2.  The trust should have had a no substance abuse clause which would have allowed the trustees to pay for treatment for the oldest daughter and not give her funds to pay for a lifestyle that led to her death.

3.  Any similarity between the step-mother and Maleficent is purely coincidental.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Huguette Clark = Howard Hughes?

As part of her $300 million fortune, Huguette Clark owned Bellosguardo, a 23 acre estate on the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara valued at $85 million.  She inherited it in 1963 upon the death of mother but never visited it because she did not want to diminish her memory of her mother there.  In a matter mirroring that of Howard Hughes' Mormon Will, a pro se Santa Barbara woman filed a lawsuit against the estate claiming that after an hour conversation in 1985, Ms. Clark gave her the mansion by writing "Cabrillo Mansion yours" on a piece of paper.    A court dismissed the lawsuit because the statute of limitations had expired in 1989.

Several points:

1.  To convey property, a deed must contain the grantor's name, the grantee's name, a description of the property, and must be appropriately witnessed and/or notarized.  Real estate cannot be conveyed via the equivalent of a bearer bond.

2.  It is heartening to see that no attorney wanted to touch this obviously fraudulent case.

3.  Perhaps if the note had also provided that the Church of Latter Day Saints would also receive Bellosguardo, she would at least have been able to sell the movie rights to "Lori and Huguette."

Monday, May 12, 2014

Semper Fi

A former Marine signed onto Facebook last week and announced he was going to take his own life.  He documented the process with graphic photos including a final post that said "Im leakinging good now."   While he lay dying in an unoccupied building, his Marine Corps. buddies were frantically trying to locate him and plead with him to not kill himself.  After his death, Facebook did not remove the graphic photos of his final moments because "they did not violate the terms of community service."  Eventually, Facebook temporarily removed the account pending a ruling from his family.  In a nutshell, if a person dies, the options for his Facebook account are to memorialize the account or for the family to remove it.  Meanwhile, the former Marines used Facebook to reach out to their comrades who might be struggling and offered to drop everything they were doing to assist one another.

Several points:

1.  People should address their digital assets in their wills and give their executor the authority to dispose of or transfer the digital assets.

2.  One can always count on Facebook to do the wrong thing.

3.  The brotherhood of the Marines is awesome beyond description.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Halitosis, Ponzi Schemers, and Politicians

Rachel "Bunny" Mellon was the heir to the Listerine fortune and also the widow of philanthropist, Paul Mellon, who in turn was the only son of industrialist and Secretary of Treasury, Andrew Mellon.  Although she tried to remain out of the public eye, Mrs. Mellon gained some notoriety during the 2008 election for contributing to John Edwards' campaign to help him support Rielle Hunter and her baby fathered by Edwards.  Her 37 page will and 9 codicils comprising another 40 pages were recently admitted to probate in Virginia.  The will addressed a multitude of personal items, created life interests in various real properties for different individuals, gave $20 million to her 75 year old son, and made many charitable bequests.

Several points:

1.  An estate of this magnitude is generally suited for the privacy offered by a funded trust.  This is doubly so when the individual does not like publicity.

2.  An estate of this magnitude can also be well served by having the entire estate pass through the probate process so any potential will contest must be brought quickly (within 4 months of probate starting in Ohio) and creditors' claims filed against the estate (six months from the date of death in Ohio).

3.  She was smart to change her will as circumstances changed for her, including the death of her daughter and the conviction of her initial co-executor for operating a Ponzi scheme.

4.  Unsurprisingly, she did not leave any funds to John Edwards for haircuts, child support, or otherwise.