Sunday, February 19, 2017

Treasure Hunt

The State of Ohio is holding an auction this Friday and Saturday to sell the contents of abandoned safe deposit boxes to make room for additional items in the Unclaimed Funds department.  The items include Kruggerands, silver bars, coins, and currency. This is the first auction of this type since 1998.  The state has had some of the items in its possession since 1968.

A few brief points:

1.  Some of the abandoned boxes belonged to decedents.  I always advise my clients to notify their executors of the location of any safe deposit boxes to prevent them being lost.

2.  The State of Ohio currently has $2.3 billion in unclaimed funds it is holding for their rightful owners.  Those funds can be claimed by completing a form on the Ohio Department of Commerce website.

3.  Almost 50 years since the state found some of these items?  The wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly.
                                          Photo Credit:  Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch
                                          License:  Fair Use/Education

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Don't Do It His Way

When Frank Sinatra, Jr. died last March, he was embroiled in divorce litigation with his ex-wife, Cynthia.  When they divorced in 2001, he was ordered to pay her $5,000 per month for a year.  Sinatra continued to voluntarily make those payments for an additional 10 years until he was financially unable to do so.  Rather than show gratitude, his ex-wife filed for a second divorce claiming that they were in a common law marriage in Texas because he continued to refer to her as his wife both on stage and privately.  

Sinatra actually lived in California, paid California income taxes while he could have avoided taxes if he were a Texas resident (Texas does not have an income tax), and filed federal gift tax returns for the payment to his ex (transfers to spouses are not subject to gift taxes).  Nonetheless, a Texas court ruled that they were married and awarded her $500,000, half of his $4.5 million house, and $5,000/month for another year.  Sinatra died during the appeal which was ultimately decided posthumously in his favor. 

So many possible points, but let’s stay with a few.

1.   Only 15 states recognize common law marriages.  Ohio is not one of them.

2.  To have a common law marriage, couples must agree that they are married, tell others that they are married, and live together in the state which recognizes common law marriages.

3.  If Sinatra was filing income tax returns as a California resident and filing federal gift tax returns for the payments to Cynthia, he did not consider her his wife.

4.  Being a gentleman got Sinatra nowhere - he was trying to be considerate of Cynthia by not referring to her as his “former wife.”  If he had to do it again, I suspect he would introduce her as “my EX-wife, hear that?  My EX-wife.”


                                          Photo:  Michael Ochs Archives
                                                                     License:  Fair Use/Education

Back In Town

Apologies for the sporadic posting. There is not much happening in the world of celebrity wills and trusts, plus I was out of town for six days on the annual guys ski trip. Pic below, post to follow.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

It's A Life Estate, Dahling

When Zsa Zsa Gabor died prior to Christmas, it was announced that her 9th husband had 90 days to vacate the Bel Air house she had owned since 1973. She had tried to sell the house several years ago, but finally accepted a lower offer in 2013 on the condition that she be allowed to reside there for the rest of her life. Now that she has died, her residency has terminated and her widower must move. The buyer will allegedly tear down the house.
A few minor points:
1. This arrangement is known as a life estate. Given her paralysis and amputations, I doubt the buyer thought she would live 3 more years.
2. Hugh Hefner allegedly has a similar arrangement for the famed Playboy Mansion.
3. Crazy times we live in when an $11 million property is a tear down.
                                         Photo copyright:  Axelle/BG/GolfPhotos.com
                                         License:  Fair Use/Education