Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Grandma Murders, Grandkids Inherit Millions (Pt. 2)

Ben Novack was the son of the builder of Miami's Fountainebleu Hotel.  Both he and his 86 year old mother were murdered at the behest of his wife of 18 years, a former stripper, within 3 weeks of each other in 2009 to collect his $10 million estate.  His wife was convicted of his murder in 2012 and is now serving life in prison.  His wife was designated as the primary beneficiary of his 2006 will, but is prohibited from inheriting due to Florida's Slayer Statute.  An appeals court recently held, though, that her daughter and grandsons may inherit his $4 million estate as his contingent will beneficiaries because the Slayer Statute does not apply to them.  Novack's cousins and other distant relatives (including Steve Wynn's wife, Andrea Wynn) are still claiming that his wife unduly influenced his will and that it should be thrown out.

Several quick points:
1.  The undue influence argument should be a non-starter because after a marriage of 15 years, a husband will always leave his assets to his wife and then her children if they do not have their own children.

2.  Novack violated one of my tenets - never marry a stripper.   Another tenet is never marry someone you met in rehab.

3.  Attorney fees are the only thing that outpaces  appreciation of South Florida real estate if Novack's estate declined in value by $6 million over 6 years.

4.  Andrea Wynn must have a punitive pre-nup with her hotel magnate husband, billionaire Steve Wynn, if she feels compelled to chase the few remaining millions of her murdered cousin.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Khloe and Lamar (Update)

At the risk of turning this blog into TMZ-lite or another gossip site, Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom have called off their pending divorce. Lamar has recovered enough from his cocaine and Viagra induced coma that he is now in physical therapy.

Two brief points:

1.  Despite my advice to the contrary, good for Lamar that he did not revise his estate planning and health care documents to remove Khloe from them as beneficiary and health care decision maker.  He saved some drafting fees while also saving his life.  I suspect other disabled individuals did not have such good fortune when their estranged spouse was calling the shots.

2.  James Harden apparently does not share my sentiments about Lamar's reconciliation with Khloe.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Coma and Lamar

Lamar Odom remains in a coma in Las Vegas after being found unconscious in a Nevada brothel after going on a weekend bender with cocaine and herbal viagra. His estranged wife, Khloe Kardashian, is reportedly making his medical decisions for him even though they separated two years ago and signed their divorce papers in July.  Los Angeles divorce courts have a four month backlog of divorce cases.

Several quick points:

1.  When individuals separate, they should implement new estate planning documents including health care powers of attorney.  During a divorce, the estranged spouse will be better off financially if the other spouse dies prior to the divorce finalization so it is best not to have the spouse in charge of one's medical decisions.

2.  That said, new estate planning documents are usually not a priority for a guy who was allegedly recently found on skid row.

3.  Odom's mom died when he was a teenager, his father was a heroin addict, and he had an infant die of SIDS.  When the Kardashian family was his oasis of normalcy, the man never had a chance.

Thanks to Kathy Chabot for the post topic suggestion.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Wind Cries Stolen

A Tucson guitar shop is being sued by the estate of Jimi Hendrix over the ownership of a guitar previously owned by Hendrix.  The shop owner claims to have bought the guitar, valued at between $750K and $1 million, from an individual who obtained it from Sheldon Reynolds, the former husband of Hendrix's sister.  The estate claims that the shop does not have title to the guitar because the guitar was stolen by Reynolds. The estate also claims that the guitar is priceless to the Hendrix family.

Three points:

1.  Under Ohio law, a thief can obtain "voidable title" which means that he owns the property until the legitimate owner claims it.  However, once the thief transfers the property to a purchaser who is unaware that the property is stolen, the purchaser becomes the lawful owner.

2.  If this were an Ohio case, the guitar shop owner would have valid title to the guitar no matter how Sheldon Reynolds obtained it before selling it - whether through gift from his wife (doubtful) or from his 14 year old step-son giving it to him by mistake (less doubtful) or simply taking it  - because the shop obtained it from a third party who was unaware it was stolen.

3.  In spite of the family's claim that the guitar is priceless to them, I suspect it is really worth $750K to $1 million to them.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Final Cut (Robin Williams Pt. 3)

The widow of Robin Williams and his children from his prior marriages settled their dispute over his estate this week.  His third wife was seeking some of his personal belongings, which he left to his children in his will, and funds to continue to reside in their home for the rest of her life.  Williams had left her the home in trust, but apparently did not set aside a specific sum to provide for the upkeep of the house for her lifetime.  The undisclosed settlement provides that she will have sufficient funds to live in the house the rest of her life, plus she will be able to keep their wedding gifts, a bike they purchased on their honeymoon, a watch, and the tuxedo he wore to their wedding.  They also disputed the ownership of various photographs.

Three brief points:

1.  This dispute was really about the funds to keep her in their Tiburon house.  The rest of the items are inconsequential.

2.  I am glad his children were able to allow his widow to have one watch and one bike from his watch and 50 bike collection.

3.  In the era of digital photography, does anyone really fight over the ownership of pictures when they are readily reproduced?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

This Is Not Springfield, It Is L.A.

Sam Simon was renowned as the co-creator of "The Simpsons."  When he died earlier this year, he left an estate worth at least $100 million, most of which he left to charity.  He left the care of his rescue dog, a Cane Corso (think a pit bull on steroids, dating from Roman times) to the dog's trainer.  Alas, he did not leave any funds to the trainer for the care of the dog which requires twice a week acupuncture at $3,600 per month, gluten free regionally sourced food for $185 month, and $150 grooming every three weeks.  The trainer also requested his $7,500 monthly fee to work with the dog to keep it from "changing your life in an instant (i.e. mauling)"  even though the trainer now owned the dog.  The trainer is upset that the trustee will not provide him the funds he has requested to care for the dog.

Several points:

1.   Trusts to provide for the care of pets after the death of an owner are permissible under Ohio law.

2.  If Mr. Simon's trust did not specifically provide for the care of the dog after his death, the Trustee is not permitted to distribute funds to the new owner of the dog.

3.  When leaving someone one's pet, one should also leave a sum of money to care for the animal. I always address this issue with my clients, lest they impose a financial burden on their friends.

4.  Mr. Simon could have made a huge difference in many human lives with the $140K he was spending annually on a dog prone to attacking anyone who walked onto his property, although attacking Howard Stern is understandable.

5.  Gluten free, regionally sourced food for dogs?  L.A. deserves our scorn and mockery.

Dad's Weekend

Just returned from Dad's Weekend at Blair's sorority at Indiana University.  It is always great to spend time with her.  Post to follow soon.