Thursday, May 23, 2019

Sister Is Doing It For Herself

When Aretha Franklin died last August, she was reported to have died without a will.  The administration of her estate proceeded accordingly.  This week her lawyer of 40 years said that her family had found three handwritten wills, two from 2010 and one from 2014, in her house.  The 2010 wills were in a locked cabinet while the 2014 will was in a spiral notebook under a couch cushion.  The wills look like gibberish at first glance.  A court will determine their validity in June.

Several points:

1.  Michigan law provides that wills should be signed in the presence of two witnesses (same as Ohio).

2.  Michigan allows for holographic (i.e. handwritten) wills if it is certain the writing is intended to be the person’s will and it is dated.

3.  Writing in a spiral notebook under a couch cushion rarely looks to be the final thoughts regarding the disposition of one’s assets.

4.  If someone has millions of dollars and millions more in expected music royalties, she should pay a lawyer to prepare a properly drafted will and trust and let the attorney keep it so there is no posthumous doubt about her wishes.  Get it right.


Photo Credit:  Mary Altaffer for AP
License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Longshot

Comedian Tim Conway died today.  He started his career on “McHale’s Navy” and was best known for his role on “The Carol Burnett Show.”  During the last year of his life, his daughter from his first marriage squabbled with his second wife of 35 years over his medical care.  The daughter sought to be appointed conservator (i.e. guardian) of him even though Conway had executed a health care power of attorney designating his wife as his health care decision maker.  The daughter’s petition was denied and eventually the wife was designated as the conservator.  The daughter said she would continue to be an advocate for children seeking visitation denied by a step-parent.

Several somewhat redundant points:

1.  Because Conway had executed a financial power of attorney and health care power of attorney in favor of his wife, a conservatorship was unnecessary because those documents determined his wishes.

2.  It is bananas that animosity between a child and step-mother does not subside after 35 years of marriage.

3.  The daughter’s declaration of victory and promise of advocacy after having no legal basis for her position and then being thwarted by the court is Trumpian. 


Photo Credit:  Fox News video
License:  Fair Use/Education

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Stinky Cheese Man

Eugene Brown died at the age of 93 in Corning ,California. His body was discovered after the mail carrier reported that he was not sitting outside waiting for her for five consecutive days. He was survived by three nephews and a niece, but was in contact with none of them.
He owned a house purchased in the 1970's, a car purchased in the 1980's with only 74,000 miles on it, and $2.7 million. He did not have a bed and only had two slices of wrapped cheese singles in his fridge at the time of his death. Besides the mailman, the only person who he spoke with regularly was his investment manager. Because he did not have a will, his nephews and niece inherited his estate even though some of them had not seen him in 50 years and some thought he had died years ago.
Several repetitive points:
1. Without a will, state law determines who inherits an estate. The result is the closest living relative(s).
2. 56% of Americans do not have a will.
3. Mr. Brown did not have any friends, but was a somewhat devout Catholic. He could have left his estate to any number of Catholic organizations.
4. Rather than saving his money so that his distant relatives could inherit it, Mr. Brown would have been better off spending at least some of the money on a bed, a more modern vehicle, unprocessed cheese, and attorney fees to prepare a will.


Photo Credit:  Tehama County Public Guardian
License:  Fair Use/Education (in linked article)

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Morning Line Again

I subbed for Paul Daugherty's The Morning Line blog again today. I did a deep dive on the change in basketball coaches at UC. I hope you enjoy it.


Photo Credit:  Kareem Elgazzar/Cincinnati Enquirer
License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Don't Do Me Like That

When Tom Petty died of a drug overdose 18 months ago, he was survived by his second wife, Dana York, and his two daughters from his first marriage, Adria and Annakim. Petty created a trust to administer and distribute his assets. He named his widow as the trustee. He also directed that his music rights and royalties be transferred to a company to be managed equally by his widow and daughters.
His wife believes “equally” means a 50/50 split of management while the daughters contend that “equally” means they each get a vote for 2/3 control. The eldest daughter has opposed a 25th anniversary release of Petty’s last good album, Wildflowers, and has flamed various members of his band and the City of Gainesville. His widow has petitioned the LA probate court to appoint a day to day manager of the estate and requested that Adria act respectably.
Several quick points:
1. No matter how much planning a person does, there is no guarantee that his heirs will behave after his death.
2. Second marriages are always ripe for irrational emotional reactions after a death.
3. The estate planning attorney likely wishes he had defined “equally” in the trust.
4. A bank trustee can sometimes diffuse some of a beneficiary’s distrust, but not always. And usually not with someone as ill tempered as Adria.
5. In the streaming music era, the expected windfall from the re-release of Wildflowers is illusory. No one under 50 buys CDs.


Photo Credit:  NY Post? - vidcap
License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Thursday, March 28, 2019

One Hall of Famer, One Grandfather, One Grandson, and 47 Years

When my grandfather tended bar for the owners of the Cincinnati Reds in their luxury suite in the 1970's, he had his picture taken with Johnny Bench. Today, I met Johnny Bench in the Dinsmore box and recreated the photo. Thanks to Brian Sullivan and George Vincent of Dinsmore. And special thanks to the greatest catcher of all time.



Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Dial Down The Pressure

This is a terribly sad story. Kelly Catlin, a 23 year old who won an Olympic silver medal as a cyclist in 2016, killed herself last weekend in her dorm at Stanford. She was working on her masters in Computational Mathematics after majoring in Biomedical Engineering and Chinese at the University of Minnesota. Kelly suffered a concussion in January from a bike crash. She previously had tried to commit suicide in January but police found her in time. In the week before her death she wrote about balancing time and taking time for oneself in Velonews.
As the father of a 23 year old daughter, the father of a son who suffered a concussion two years ago while competing in cross country, and as a recreational cyclist, Kelly’s death hits particularly close. I have three quick points:
1. Take concussions seriously. Give the brain all the time it needs to heal. It might be a long time but that is relative.
2. Help your children manage internal pressure (although it seems Kelly put incredible pressure on herself to succeed) and relieve it as much as possible.  In the long run, it is likely not that important.
3. Hug your children tonight and tell them you love them.


Photo Credit:  Wil Matthews
License:  Fair Use/Educational (from linked article)

Monday, March 4, 2019

TML Again

Bit late with this, but I guest wrote Paul Daugherty's The Morning Line blog for the Cincinnati Enquirer on Friday. I covered the debut of FC Cincinnati while being complimentary to Mick Cronin. I also recapped our February in Phoenix. I hope you enjoy it.



Photo Credit:  Cincinnati Enquirer
License:  Fair Use/Education/I wrote the Article

Monday, February 25, 2019

21st Century King Lear

Herbert Neumann is the trustee of trust which owns 60 works of art worth an estimated $50 million. The most valuable piece is “Untitled (Tyranny)” by Jean-Michel Basquiat. The trust was created by Neumann’s brother for the benefit of Neumann’s 3 daughters. Now, one of the daughters, Belinda Neumann-Donnelly, is suing her father in his capacity as trustee to sell all of the artworks. She claims that the art will be impossible to divide equitably and that she needs funds for her family’s “significant housing, litigation, and education expenses.”

The same daughter has another lawsuit, presumably the source of the significant litigation expenses, against her father involving the sale of another Basquiat painting, “Flesh and Spirit,” formerly owned by her mother who died in 2016 that sold for $30.7 million last year. She claims that her father’s threat to contest the sale of the painting depressed the sales price. Oddly, she lives in the same two family building in NY as her father.
Several points:
1. The lawsuit to sell the paintings owned by the trust is likely premature because the trust likely provides that it will distribute its assets upon the death of Neumann.
2. Neumann’s wife, who owned the painting sold for $30.7 million, disinherited him from her will alleging he abused her. I am surprised that he did not elect against the will which would entitle him to 1/3 of his wife’s estate including part of the painting sales proceeds.
3. If Neumann’s wife gave the painting to the daughter before she died, as some articles insinuate, the wife would have been required to file a gift tax return and pay gift tax on nearly $25 million and the daughter would have to pay capital gain tax on almost the entire sales amount (Mrs. Neumann only paid $15K for the painting).
4. The emperor truly has no clothes because Basquiat paintings look like the drawings of a bored high school student on the back of his spiral notebook.


Photo Credit - Owen Hoffmann, ©Patrick McMullan
License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Trouble Don't Set Up Like Rain
Marcelle Harrison’s mother and step-father, both of whom were Barbadian immigrants, purchased a house in Boston in 1970 for $23K. Her mom died in 2009. Her step-father died without a will two years later.
Now, Harrison and her multi-generation family are being forced to leave the $1 million home because they are not the legal owners. Because her step-father died without a will, his closest living relatives, nieces and nephews who live in Barbados, will inherit his estate. A state representative who lives across the street said “It shocks the conscience to think that this low-income, Barbadian family could be displaced, really out of the blue.”
A few points, some of which I have made before:
1. The legal outcome is correct - under the statute of intestate succession, which applies when there is no will, Harrison has no claim on her step-father’s estate no matter how long he was married to her mother.
2. Thoughtful estate planning is important for everyone, but even more so for second marriages and blended families.
3. The local politician might find this outcome shocking, but I am not shocked that a Massachusetts politician would use identity politics to describe the problem while being ignorant of the law.



Photo Credit:  Jessica Rinaldi/Boston Globe
License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Feeling Low Cotton

Gerald Cotten ran QuadrigaCX, one of Canada’s largest crytopcurrency exchange companies.  Last month, the company announced that 30 year old Mr. Cotten died in early December of complications from Crohn’s Disease while building orphanages in India.  The company also announced that $140 million of cryptocurrency was unavailable because all of the currency was stored on a laptop that only he had access to and no one knew the password.   There is concern that the cryptocurrency will be locked on the laptop forever.  However, digital forensic experts have questioned whether the currency is actually on the laptop and whether it was moved previously.

One planning point, one investment point, and a lot of shade.

1. This is a classic instance of making sure that your heirs can access your digital accounts after your death.  I advise my clients to write down their passwords to prevent heirs from being locked out after death.

2. Cryptocurrency investments can be dangerous enough without trusting them to a twenty-something operating on a laptop out of his house in Nova Scotia.

3. Not to be a conspiracist, but I do question the legitimacy of reports of a young man dying of Crohn’s disease (mortality rate of 1%) while overseas doing charity work with the death reported a month later, and $140 million possibly missing and not simply locked on a computer.  Feel free to call me a cynic, though.


Photo Credit:  Benoit Tessier/Reuters
License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Monday, January 21, 2019

Addressing the Scourge of Our Times

Newtown police chief, Tom Synan, was featured in a video on USA Today's site about his work on the front line combating opioid addiction and treating it as an illness and not as a crime. I am honored to call him a friend.



Photo Credit:  USA Today (actually it is from the video)
License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Identity Theft?

Jeanne Calment has been considered the world's longest lived person since she died at the age of 122 in 1997. She allegedly smoked until she could not light a cigarette without assistance. Recently, a Russian gerontologist and a Russian mathematician have questioned her longevity and floated the theory that Calment stole her mother's identity for the purposed of avoiding French inheritance taxes in the 1930's. Their theory is that she did not look or act that old. The result would be that Calment was only 99 when she died.
Only three points:
1. I always enjoyed the part of Calment's bio where she sold her apartment when she was 90 to a man who agreed to pay her a monthly sum until she died. She outlived him by two years so he wound up paying 2X for the real estate.
2. Like many points of French governance, the estate tax laws are complicated. Nonetheless, the tax rates are not so confiscatory that compliance merits identity theft as a means of avoidance.
3. Is there any type of disinformation campaign that Russians will not engage in?


Photo Credit:  Reuters
Licnese:  Fair Use/Education

Happy New Year (Belated)

Best wishes for the new year. And no, Jack is not taller than me.  😀