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.