Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day, Fashion, and Football

On Father's Day, let's briefly recap the will of fashion designer, Oscar De La Renta, who died last Fall.  It was recently reported that he snubbed his adopted son, Moises, in his will because he was upset that his then 20 year old son had tried to compete with him in the fashion design business by producing five or six pieces under his own name 10 years ago.  De La Renta left $18 million of real estate to his second wife of 25 years, then put the rest in trust for her, her children, and his son.  That amount likely was $5.34 million.

Several points:

1.  Funds left to his wife will not be subject to estate taxation until her death while leaving anything in excess of $5.34 million in trust or to his son will be taxed at a rate of 40%.

2.  Context is everything.   I doubt De La Renta was so insecure as to have been threatened or annoyed by his son's attempt to follow him into the business.  Reporting that the son was disinherited for that reason makes for a nice narrative, albeit false.

3.  After 25 years of marriage, it is not unusual to leave a significant portion of an estate to a spouse, even if there are children from a prior marriage.  Leaving a football team worth $1 billion to a third wife of 10 years is questionable, though, Tom Benson.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Cheat His Mom Then Cheat His Son

Anthony Marshall was the son of socialite Brooke Astor.  He was convicted of elder abuse of his mother and served two months in jail for stealing $14 million from her.  In his will, which was recently admitted to probate court, he left all of his assets to his second wife and her children.  He specifically excluded his son, Philip Marshall, who was the individual who notified authorities of his father's treatment of Ms. Astor.  The younger Marshall will not contest his father's will.

Three quick points:

1.  The will would be difficult to challenge unless the younger Marshall could prove that his father lacked mental capacity to execute the will.

2.  The purposeful omission of the younger Marshall for ratting out his father is evidence that the father was mentally competent.

3.  If a man steals from his mom, it is not beneath him to vengefully disinherit his son.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Dead Actors Society

The children and widow of Robin Williams are continuing to fight over his estate.  His widow is seeking items left in the house even though Mr. Williams' will left his jewelry, clothing, memorabilia, and awards to his children.  The list of 300 disputed items reportedly includes underwear, slipper, and t shirts.  More importantly, the widow will receive in trust an undetermined amount of money to care for the house he left her.  Of course, the parties cannot agree on this amount.

Several points:

1.  Williams and his attorney should have determined a specific amount for the upkeep of the house and erred on the high side.  Vagueness in a will/trust only leads to disputes.

2.  Fighting over underwear etc. proves that some people want to fight simply because the probate process is their last chance to fight with their siblings or step-parent.

3.  Even though the parties both claim the underwear, rumor has it that they left the Patch Adams memorabilia at the curb for the garbageman.