Friday, September 27, 2013

Something's Got to Give

The estate of Herb Stern, the photographer famous for taking the Last Sitting photos of Marilyn Monroe 6 weeks prior to her death, is poised for a will contest. The 83 year old executed a will in 1997 which left half of his estate to his children from his first marriage with the other half establishing a foundation. He subsequently executed a will and a trust in 2010 which left his $10 million estate, save for a few cash bequests to his children, for the benefit of his 44 year old wife, whom he had secretly married in 2009.  

Several points:

1.  It is perfectly logical for a man to alter his will to provide for his wife who was not in his life at the time of the will he signed 13 years prior. 

2.  The new will has a no contest provision stating that anyone contesting the will will forfeit their inheritance.  If this clause is coupled with significant bequests to the children it could curtail a will contest by them.  

3.  Secret marriage?  Perhaps Mr. Stern and his wife were channeling Marilyn Monroe  film titles.  Instead of "We're Not Married" they decided to "Let's Make it Legal" because Stern was only "As Young As You Feel" and followed the axiom that "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."  Once the facts are revealed, "Something's Got to Give." My apologies in advance.     

Thursday, September 19, 2013

If At First You Don't Succeed . . . . ..Forge? (No, Just Kidding).

This is out of a horror movie.  A Kansas City attorney was recently charged with murder for killing her father's girlfriend of 20 years.  Her father was shot and his girlfriend was repeatedly stabbed then shot at their vacation home in 2010.  Her father did not die from his wounds.  The woman then allegedly forged a health care power of attorney so she could withdraw his medical support 4 days later.  She was charged with his murder a year ago.  Apparently, she was concerned that her father would leave all of his assets to his soon to be wife.  In an odd but clarifying footnote, her mother (her father's first wife), had spent 11 months in jail for stealing $100,000 from her own mother by forging a power of  attorney 10 years ago.


1.  If the father had wanted to preserve assets for his daughter he could have executed a pre-nuptial agreement to set forth which assets he would leave his soon to be wife (and what would be left for his daughter).

2.  Along the same lines, he could have executed a trust to provide for his new wife while leaving the remainder to his daughter after the wife's death.

3.  Preparing a health care power of attorney to address medical needs is essential.   So is ensuring that the person with that responsibility has a copy of the document and is aware of the duties.

4.  When a daughter resents her father and his girlfriend, and her biological mother has already stolen from her own mother, an active alarm system  and a multitude of security cameras would be a worthy investment.  And perhaps a Kevlar jacket.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Visits Trump Cards (Huguette Clark Pt. 3)

I previously blogged about the will dispute over Huguette Clark's fortune, here and here.  Now the issue is set for trial in the next week.  I snarkily  wrote "When a distant relative is a Gilded Age heiress, a Christmas card and occasional phone call provide a great return on investment."  It turns out that her great-grandniece did send her a Christmas card for 33 years until her death and was still excluded from the will.  Actually, the great-grandniece and other distant relatives were included initially in a 2005 will but then excluded by a revised will she signed a month later.  However, no relative saw Ms. Clark between 1968 and her death in 2011.  The excluded relatives are challenging a will which left most of her fortune to her caregivers, her support network (including her attorney), and the hospital in which she resided for her last 20 years.

Several points:

1.  1968?  43 years before her death?  Those relatives were not important to Ms. Clark.  Nor was she to them.

2.  The grounds for challenging a will are either lack of mental capacity or undue influence.  If she was not competent to execute the second will, it is doubtful she was competent the prior month to leave everything to the relatives.

3.  The lawyer drafting a will should never be a beneficiary of the will.  He should bring in another attorney to prevent the appearance of undue influence by him.

4.  My guess (which based on my prior snark and other poor predictions in this blog is probably wrong) is that she reflexively signed a will leaving her assets to her relatives even though she had not seen them since the RFK and MLK assassinations and the moon landing, then reconsidered and decided to leave her assets to people who had made a difference in her life.

5.  More bloggers, and journalists, should admit their poor prognostication abilities.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sports, Not Death

Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer has once again graciously allowed me to write his blog today. Link is here.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I See Gullibility

An English woman is a key witness against a Florida psychic on trial for defrauding people of $25 million.  The woman sought the assistance of the psychic when her husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer shortly after leaving her.  The psychic was supposed to prolong the estranged husband's life by two years and have him return to her if the woman divested herself of  the "tainted" money she made when selling the castle she and her husband owned. In a future plot line from Downton Abbey, when the husband died six months later, he left his wife no money in his will and authorized a servant to use his frozen sperm to have an IVF child.  In spite of the failure of the psychic to accomplish her goals, the woman continued to give money to the psychic ($900k  total) to prevent the servant from bearing a child with her late husband.    

Several points:

1.  In Ohio, a husband may not disinherit his wife.  The wife is entitled to at least 1/3 of the assets under his will.    

2.   When a deceased spouse has left a mess of his personal affairs, it is best to seek the counsel of an attorney, not the psychic whose shop is across the street from one's hotel.  

3.  Never tell a psychic how much money one has, do not believe in tainted money, giving money to a psychic does not untaint it . . . Heck, just avoid psychics in general. 

4.  When an estranged husband wants out of a marriage then dies shortly thereafter authorizing a servant to conceive his child and tries to disinherit his spouse, and one ends up with $2 million plus one -third of his estate, do not be mournful and hire a psychic.  Be thankful the cad is out of one's life.