Sunday, November 29, 2015

2 Broke Girls?

Sumner Redstone is the divorced, 92 year old billionaire who owns a controlling interest in both CBS and Viacom. His relationships with two much younger women were profiled in Vanity Fair earlier this year.  Since the publication of the article, and likely because of it, he has severed his contacts with both women.  One of the women, Manuela Herzner, filed suit this week claiming that he lacked mental capacity to remove her as the attorney in fact under his health care power of attorney.   His attorneys have naturally responded that the litigation is a farce, meritless, and a despicable invasion of his privacy.

Three points of some relevance:

1.  The battle is not really about Ms. Herzner controlling the medical decisions for Mr. Redstone - it is about throwing down a marker about his mental capacity in case he revises his will to leave her out of it.

2.  Far be it from me to call a man with two (!) girlfriends who are 40 an 50 years younger than him mentally unfit especially when he questions their motives after they gloat about their relationship in Vanity Fair.

3.  A simple test of his mental faculties could be whether he somehow finds Stephen Colbert funny and a worthy successor to David Letterman as host of CBS's "Late Night."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Boxing For Dollars

Samuel Dubose was the Cincinnatian who was shot and killed by a University of Cincinnati police officer after being stopped off campus for not having a front license plate (a "chicken shit" stop in the words of the county prosecutor).  He is survived by his mother, father, and 11 children from various mothers.  The only asset of his intestate estate is the potential wrongful death claim against the University of Cincinnati and its police officer.  A local personal injury attorney, known for his ads shown with him wearing boxing gloves, applied to be the administrator of his estate so he could represent the estate in the forthcoming wrongful death lawsuit.  After legal wrangling, the 18 year old daughter of the decedent, Raegan Brooks, was appointed as administrator of the estate today.

Several pithy points:

1.  Ohio law provides that if an individual dies without a will, his spouse or his children will be appointed the administrator of the estate.

2.   Nowhere in the Ohio statute is a personal injury attorney, no matter how pugilistic, listed as a possible administrator of an estate.

3.  I am somewhat surprised that that the decedent had a daughter named after a Republican president.  I am not surprised the name was misspelled.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Maraschino Marijuana

Arthur Mondella was the high living, third generation owner of a Brooklyn maraschino cherry family business.  When his business was being investigated for illegally dumping cherry juice onto the streets, investigators found a large marijuana grow room.  He then locked himself in his private bathroom and shot himself.
His will left 80% of his reported $8.5 million estate to his three daughters and the remaining 20% to his sister.  The will designated one of his daughters to serve as executrix.  The attorney who prepared the will lost it and offered a copy of it for probate.  While the will is being validated by the probate court, his ex-wife, a Russian mail order bride by her attorney's description, is opposing the appointment of his daughter as executrix on the grounds that she is not qualified to fill that role.

So many points that it is hard to focus only on the following:

1.  The individual designated as executor in a will is almost always appointed as executor by the court.  If a temporary executor is needed to operate a business, the individual designated as the executor would seem to be the best person to fill the role.

2.  I am not sure that a Russian mail order bride is the best person to challenge another's qualifications to serve as executor unless the position involves marketing.

3.  As profitable as marijuana growing might have been, Mr. Mondella might have missed his true calling.  The cherry juice in the street was causing neighborhood bees to turn red and produce cherry tainted honey.  The Whole Foods/Fresh Market base would have paid a premium for the legal production of  cherry flavored honey.  Heck, even Walmart customers would like the product if sufficiently discounted.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Money Play

Roderick Covlin was arrested yesterday on charges he murdered his wife on New Year's Eve in 2009.  The estranged couple was in the midst of divorce when Shele Covlin was found dead in a bathtub.  An autopsy revealed she had been strangled.  Ms. Covlin reportedly feared for her safety and had an appointment with an attorney to change her will the next day according to court filings.  Since her death, her husband, an unemployed backgammon expert, has been blocked from receiving any of her $1.0 million estate.  She changed the beneficiaries of her $1.6 million insurance policy to her children the month before she died.

There are a litany of estate planning issues, but let's focus on the major ones:

1.  Changing a will and other documents during a divorce proceeding is always advisable if not prohibited by agreements between the parties or the domestic relations court.

2.  Simply changing a will can allow the other spouse to inherit up to one third of the probate estate if the spouse elects to take the elective share provided by statute.  Transferring the assets to a trust would be a more effective means of disinheriting a divorcing spouse.

3.  If convicted of murder, the husband will lose all benefits to his deceased wife's estate under NY's Slayer Statute.

4.  Am I the only one who doubts that Shele Covlin had an appointment on New Year's Day to change her estate plan? The day after perhaps, but not on New Year's Day.