Wednesday, January 28, 2015

All Dogs Go to Heaven (Update)

I previously posted about Bela, the German Shepherd, whose owner requested that he be put down, cremated, and have his ashes spread with the owner's ashes.  The owner's wishes resulted in a social media storm that ended with a Utah animal shelter providing him a home.  It turns out that the entire incident was much ado about a month. Bela was diagnosed with cancer over the weekend and put down. His ashes will be buried with his owner's.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Big Messy (Part Deux)

As I posted the other day, Tom Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans, recently changed his estate plan to leave his ownership interests in his teams to his 3rd wife instead of his granddaughter. His granddaughter and other relatives filed suit alleging that he is incompetent and that his changed plan should be barred by the court. Among other allegations, his family claims that when questioned he thought the current U.S. President was Reagan or Truman. He also allegedly lives on "candy, ice cream, sodas, and red wine" and forgot his daughter's birthday. The lawsuit portrays his wife, Gayle Benson, as a gold digger. She allegedly has removed all photos of his daughter and grandchildren from their house while he has changed all of his previous medical care providers. 

Several points: 

1. Grounds for contesting a will/trust are absence of mental incapacity (not knowing what one is doing and who one's heirs would usually be) and undue influence (one person convinces another to leave assets to him/her due to proximity to that person). 

2. On the surface, it seems like there is some evidence of both a lack of mental capacity and undue influence in this matter. 

3. Don't we all wish that we could live on "candy, ice cream, sodas,and red wine" and that Ronald Reagan was still president? 

4. It would be more appropriate if Gayle Benson were in line to inherit the 49'ers because they are named after real gold diggers.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Big Messy

Tom Benson, the 87 year old owner of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans, recently announced changes to his succession plan.  For years, his granddaughter, Rita LeBlanc, was designated as the future owner of the teams.  Benson has since changed his mind and declared that his 3rd wife, Gayle Benson, whom he married ten years ago will run the teams in the future.  He also sent a letter to his granddaughter, grandson, and daughter stating that he no longer wishes to see them or communicate with them.  He also banned them from attending Saints and Pelicans games because of the way they allegedly treated his new wife (and now future owner of the teams). Of course, the three of them have filed suit seeking to have him declared incompetent.

Several points:

1.  Purely from an estate tax viewpoint, leaving the teams to his wife makes sense because as his spouse she will not have to pay estate taxes on the bequests until her death.  The bequest to the granddaughter would have been subject to both a 40% estate tax and additional 40% generation skipping tax rate for a combined transfer tax bill of $640 million due to the billion dollar Saints alone.  The granddaughter likely would have had to sell the teams to pay this bill.

2.   Although the change in succession plan can easily be justified for death tax reasons alone, a note telling family members to never visit him again and forbidding them from attending sporting events is extreme and was guaranteed to provoke a lawsuit from the family members.

3.  As a practical matter, all children, not just those of billionaire NFL owners, should bend over backwards to accommodate an elderly parent's new spouse lest they find themselves as disinherited "po boys" or "po girls."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Between Friends

An Andy Warhol painting is in the news. His portrait of Elizabeth Taylor is the subject of litigation between his foundation and his former "bodyguard", Agusto Bugarin.  The painting was expected to bring between $20 million and $30 million at an auction which has since been postponed.  The "bodyguard" who stands 5'4"" and weighs 135 pounds, and was likely Warhol's assistant, claims Warhol gave him the painting for his assistance in renovating a house.  The foundation claims that Bugarin was really his bodyguard and has patiently waited for anyone with knowledge of the painting to die before attempting to sell it.

Several, actually five, quick points:

1.  Gifts of assets without titles are difficult to prove/disprove.  I frequently see this in disputes about jewelry in an estate and whether it was given while mom was alive or taken by one of the daughters after mom died.

2.  Warhol died in 1987.  27 years is an incredibly long time for a man of limited financial resources to wait before trying to cash in on something he allegedly stole.

3.   Warhol was known for giving away his away.  Ask the University of Texas which lost its dispute with Ryan O'Neal over a portrait of Farrah Fawcett.

4.  I agree with Warhol's nephews who claim that Warhol was only joking when he referred to the 5'4" Filipino Bugarin as his bodyguard.  If I had a bodyguard, he would look like an NFL linebacker and only speak mono syllabic English language words.  And then only occasionally.

5.  I still do not understand the market for Warhol art.  I would not pay $20, much less $20 million, for a picture of Elizabeth Taylor in which she resembles a drag queen.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Norway - Land of Fjords, Trolls, and Casey Kasem's Body

Following up on a post from last year, Casey Kasem's widow finally buried his remains several weeks ago in Norway.  He supposedly had wished to be buried in LA, but she shipped his unembalmed (and malodorous) remains to Norway because she had ancestors from there.

Three quick points:

1.  Unembalmed and rotting remains in a foreign country are difficult to autopsy for purposes of determining elder abuse.

2.  The alleged Norwegian ancestral ties of a second wife should be unimportant in determining the burial site of an American of Lebanese descent.

3.  Perhaps the widow's Norwegian ancestors are the trolls important in Norwegian folklore.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year

Happy New Year.  I hope everyone has a great one.  New post to follow over the weekend.