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Long Blue Line

Jack graduated from St. Xavier on Thursday.  He will attend Ohio State’s Fisher School of Business.

Mellon’s Folly and the Infinite Sadness

Matthew Mellon was descended from the famous banking family. He died last month at the age of 54 after ingesting the hallucinogenic ayahuasca before starting rehab. At one time he had a $100K/month oxycontin habit.

When Mellon turned 21, he received a $25 million allowance from a family trust, one of 14 trusts established for him. He recently became a billionaire by investing in cryptocurrency. TMZ is reporting that his estate is now petitioning the probate court to authorize the sale of the cryptocurrency.

So many intersecting points in current events:

1. Someone should never give their child $25 million at the age of 21. Trusts can be created to defer an inheritance for as long as necessary.

2. In probate, assets can usually not be sold or transferred until the entire list of assets has been compiled which can take many months. With the decline in value of crytopcurrency, the estate wants to sell it before people realize its true value is likely zero.

3. Mellon might be the wealthiest victim of our tragic opioid crisis.

4. Following the lynching last month of a Canadian who moved to a Peruvian jungle to seek clarity through ayahuasca but somehow killed a shaman, Mellon is the second person whose newsworthy death can be attributed to it.

5. Ayahuasca is described as a sludgelike hallucinogenic potion used by indigenous shamans in spiritual exercises. I will take my drink inspired spiritual experiences through a nice fruit forward cabernet.

Photo Credit:  Forbes/Ethan Pines

License:  Fair Use/Education (linked article)

Make It Rain

Micky Liu is described as an HBO IT exec. When he died in 2015, he left his life insurance proceeds, and 401(k) plan balance and other retirement benefits to Veronica Beckham, a stripper he had met 9 months earlier. His sister contested the $223K left to Beckham alleging that Beckham (no relation to David) had seduced Liu. A court ruled against the sister on the grounds that the only person who could contest the beneficiary designation was Liu’s prior beneficiary, an ex-girlfriend.
 
A few minor points:
 
1. The court made the correct ruling because Liu had no presumption of leaving the benefits to his sister or any other family member.
 
2. Undue influence is more difficult to prove in a non-will matter than a will contest.
 
3. As a rule of thumb, women who hang with Snoop Dogg are not usually romantically interested in IT guys.  
 
4. $223K total benefits (including presumably 1X salary in life insurance)? The term “exec” has become as watered down as the term “porn star.”
 
Photo Credit:  Instagram
License:  Fair Use/Education

One Down One to Go

 

 

Blair (aka Princess) graduated yesterday from Indiana University’s business school. She will start working in Chicago at the end of the month.

He Would Die 4 U

It has been two years since Prince died of fentanyl poisoning. Because he did not leave a will instructing how to administer his estate (remember he thought was going to live until he was 1999), a bank has been appointed as executor of his estate while his siblings and half siblings will be the beneficiaries.
Several points:
1. If Prince wanted to control his legacy he should have executed a will. Even people with no sense of mortality need to provide for their demise.
2. It is easy for friends who have no financial stake in Prince’s estate to complain about the revenues being generated by not respecting his legacy.
3. Justin Timberlake needed all the help possible for his Super Bowl performance.
4. Pains me to say this as a huge Prince fan, but Nothing Compares 2 Sinead’s version of the song.
 
 
Photo Credit:  Michael S. Williamson/Washington Post
License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

What Is It With Sacramento?

Rosalie Achiu is a recently widowed Sacramento woman. Her neighbors described her as suffering from dementia. Shortly after she called the Sacramento sheriff for assistance in January, one of the responding deputies obtained her power of attorney, drilled a safe deposit box, moved her out of her house, and placed her on a plane to the Phillippines ostensibly to visit relatives there. The deputy claims that she did all of this at the behest of the woman. The deputy is now under investigation by her department.
A few points:
1. Color me skeptical that a woman would instantly give financial control of her assets to a law enforcement officer she recently met and that the officer would accept such power for benevolent purposes when social services and the probate court could assist the woman.
2. Mrs. Achiu should have executed a power of attorney prior to her husband’s death, or shortly thereafter, designating a trusted friend or relative as her attorney in fact for both financial and medical decisions.
3. In true 2018 fashion, the deputy claims that she is being investigated because she filed a harassment claim against her now current supervisor in 2007. This does not explain why her partner is also being investigated.
 
 
Photo Credit:  Unknown (AP?)
License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

The Morning Line

I subbed for Paul Daugherty’s TML blog in the Cincinnati Enquirer again yesterday. I discussed the Reds new manager, the FC Cincinnati MLS bid, and our day in Cuba among other topics.

I hope you enjoy it.

 

 

Photo Credit:  Sam Greene for Cincinnati Enquirer

License:  Photo used in the Enquirer written by me for the Enquirer

 

#MeToo (#SheWasFirst)

William Agee was a boy wonder corporate exec in the late 70’s and early 80’s when he helmed Bendix Corporation. Mary Cunningham was a Harvard MBA grad voted most likely to be CEO of a non-cosmetics company. She spurned job offers on Wall Street to work for Bendix as Agee’s personal assistant before being promoted to Vice President. They eventually divorced their spouses and married each other while ignoring rumors that Cunningham had “slept her way to the top.”

After Agee’s several failed business deals reportedly undertaken under Cunningham’s advice, Cunningham became known as the Yoko Ono of finance. They settled in Napa Valley where Cunningham acquired the moniker of “Tomato Lady” for growing special tomatoes.

Six weeks before he died, Agee, reportedly suffering from dementia, changed his will to leave half his assets to his children from whom he had been estranged for 35 years. He also filed for divorce from Cunningham and named his daughter as his health care power of attorney. His last communication with his wife was via Face Time from Seattle. Cunningham is challenging the will although it does not matter because most of his assets were in his trust which was unchanged before his death.

A few points:

1. A will change six weeks before death to benefit children who have been estranged for 35 years will always generate questions of competency..

2. If Agee changed his will prior to his death, he should have also changed his trust if his assets were titled in the name of the trust.

3. Yoko Ono of finance? Tomato Lady? Music fans could only wish that Yoko Ono had grown tomatoes instead of creating unlistenable music and breaking up the Beatles.

Photo Credit:  Mary Moritz for the New York Times

License:  Fair Use/Education

Back From Spring Break

Quick Caribbean cruise with Jack and 3 St. Xavier classmates including a day in Cuba. Post soon.  

Till I Get to the Bottom and See You Again

In news of no importance, a California court ruled that the body of infamous mass murderer, Charles Manson, should be given to his grandson. The claims of a man claiming to be the son of Manson via an orgy and someone who was Manson’s pen pal were denied. The question of who will inherit Manson’s estate is still to be determined.

A few points:

 1. The body was released to Manson’s closest living relative as it should have been.
 2. The competition for the body of a man who personified “evil” is odd.
 3. The battle for the body is a prelude for a battle for his estate although after 47 years in prison the estate likely consists of a blanket, toothbrush, razor, and a few dollars for working in the prison laundry.
 
Photo Credit:  California Dept. of Corrections
License:  Fair Use/Education

We Rebelled Against Monarchy for a Reason

Times are slow in the estate planning news area. I have been awaiting the resolution of a court hearing in Hawaii about the estate of their last living “Princess” for the past month. Alas, nothing has been reported.

Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawananakoa is considered the last living Hawaiian princess. Her great-aunt was the last Queen of Hawaii. Her great-grandfather was a pineapple magnate who left her a fortune. The 91 year old survived a stroke last summer. Her long time attorney was granted control of her $250 million estate. Her long time 64 year old girl friend married her last Fall after initially breaking up with her because she wanted more than the $700K annual allowance she was receiving.

A few points of some pithiness:

1. Planning wise, Abigail should have had a financial power of attorney designating someone to handle her finances if she were incapacitated.

2. She also should have a medical power of attorney allowing someone to assist her with her medical decisions when necessary.

3. Hawaiians revere their royalty no matter how tenuously connected to the throne from 125 years ago.

4. Some (including me) might call a woman who marries an incapacitated wealthy woman 27 years older than her an opportunist rather than a wife.

Photo Credit:  AP

License:  Fair Use/Eduction

Give It Up or Turnit Loose

James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, died in 2006. His estate is still unsettled due to myriad lawsuits. He had intended to leave $2 million for scholarships for his grandchildren, memorabilia to his children, and the rest to a charity for scholarships for children from SC and Georgia.

Lawsuits have involved whether a woman should have been trustee, whether people should have been removed as trustee, the paternity of a son, and the validity of Brown’s marriage (his wife reportedly was married at the time of their marriage) plus the run of the mill will contest suits. The most recent suit involves whether his wife could sell the rights to his songs.

Two points:

1. There are no good lessons here. If heirs want to fight, they will find reasons to fight and no planning can prevent that.

2. I always preferred the music of Brown’s contemporaries, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, both who died tragically young. One benefit of dying young is that there is no large estate to fight over nor large family to fight.

 

Photo Credit:  Michael Holahan/Augusta Chronicle, via Associated Press and linked NYT article
License:  Fair Use/Education

Return

Back from a father/son ski trip and somewhat back from the February blahs. New post to follow soon.

Not All Tattoos Are Pointless

When an unconscious Florida man was brought to a hospital without identification but a tattoo that said “Do Not Resuscitate” and a signature, doctors were surprisingly faced with what to do with the dying man. They first thought they should disregard the tattoo because it might not reflect his current wishes because he might have gotten it when drunk. An ethicist later over-ruled the doctors and said that his tattooed wishes must be respected.The man eventually died. An NYU ethicist quoted in the article said that people should carry their health care directives with them to prevent these problems.
 
Several points:
 
1. Sad that the hospital was at first going to ignore something as obvious as the man’s tattooed wishes. Even if he were drunk when he obtained the tattoo, he could have remembered to remove it any time whenever he saw himself and the tattoo in a mirror.
 
2. I have scans of all my clients’ documents and have occasionally been asked to send them to a hospital while I have been out of town. The cloud can be a tremendous tool.
 
3. Carrying one’s health care directives in case of emergency seems like an extreme command by the ethicist especially in the case of homeless folks who are simply trying to push a cart with their blankets and clothes and looking for food. Neatly preserved health care directives would seem to be low on the priority list.
 
4. Moving beyond homeless folks, asking folks to carry their health care directives while they run to CVS or Sam’s Club seems burdensome. This is further proof that the academic world is not the real world.

The Morning Line Again

I subbed for Paul Daugherty’s The Morning Line blog in the Cincinnati Enquirer again yesterday. The only topic was Mike Brown’s management of the Cincinnati Bengals. I will not be receiving Christmas cards from his family anytime soon.

I hope you enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit:  Kareem Elgazzar for the Cincinnati Enquirer

License:  I wrote the linked article for the Cincinnati Enquirer 🙂

 

It’s Not Right But It’s Okay

The estate of Whitney Houston settled its dispute with the IRS over outstanding estate taxes. The IRS had contended that the valuation of Houston’s back catalog and image and likeness was undervalued by $22 million resulting in $11 million of additional taxes. The settlement was for $2 million. Oddly, or perhaps not given the state of journalism in 2018, the focus of most articles was on the value of her image and likeness but the IRS and the estate differed on that valuation by only $200K.

A few small points:

1. Since the death of Michael Jackson, the IRS has been taxing the image and likeness of dead celebrities with the value based on expected licensing revenues in the future.

2. Cool fact – Robin Williams said that his likeness cannot be used for 40 years after his death rendering its value worthless.

3. In the age of streaming music, the longer the estate held out the less valuable the back catalog of albums became.

4. This was purely a principled, but unemotional, victory for the estate. Houston’s daughter died nearly 3 years ago and Houston was divorced. Any estate tax savings will benefit her mother and her brothers.

Not About the Sport Coats

Craig Sager was a beloved basketball reporter who died last year from cancer. He was known for his colorful sport coats and bantering with Gregg Popovich, coach of the Spurs. He was divorced and re-married at the time of his death with children from both wives. His will is being probated in Georgia. It reportedly left everything to his second wife, Stacy.

His son from his first marriage tweeted yesterday that he was being summoned to court by a sheriff to prevent him from contesting the will even though he was not interested in contesting in the first place. His sister, Kacy, defended her brother while also flaming her step-mother and tweeted a list of grievances. Seeing a moment in the sun, the former girlfriend of the son felt compelled to jump into the fray and call the step-mother a POS in typical coarse social media parlance.

Several points:

1. Georgia is similar to Ohio in that when a will is admitted to probate all of the heirs at law (spouse and children) plus all of the will beneficiaries are required to receive notice of the probate proceedings via certified mail.

2. The son from the first marriage and his sisters were simply receiving the legally required notice.

3. Given the lapse between the date of death of Sager’s death and the date of this process, it is likely that most of his assets were in a trust and that a small account was titled only in his name and hence subject to the probate process.

4. Sager might have excluded his children from his first marriage due to their hostility to his second wife and/or their over-reaction to legal events.

5. Hostility to second wives can be avoided if they are age appropriate and their names do not rhyme with that of one’s daughters.

Happy New Year

From Marco Island.

TML Again

I guest wrote Paul Daugherty’s TML blog on Friday. I covered the best and worst in Cincinnati sports this year, plus some other topics such as possible successors to Marvin Lewis. I hope you enjoy it.

Ocean’s 14

Rande Gerber, husband of Cindy Crawford, recently told a TV program that George Clooney gave $1 million to 14 of his long time buddies four years ago. Clooney invited his friends to his house for dinner and presented each of them with an expensive leather suitcase.

When the friends opened them, each found $1 million in $20 bills. Clooney told them he had appreciated their friendship and wanted to help those who were struggling. He also said he had paid their taxes on the gift. Gerber did not want to take the money, but Clooney said no one would get their money if Gerber did not take his.

Several points:

1. This generosity resulted in a gift tax of $3.0 million to Clooney. In 2013, gifts to an individual in excess of $14K and beyond the $5.25 million exemption were taxed at 35%.

2. Despite his statement about paying their taxes, Clooney was obligated to pay the gift tax – the donor is always liable for the gift tax owed.

3. Having won the lottery twice – marrying Cindy Crawford and selling his Casamigos Tequila brand for $700 million – Gerber donated his million to charity to keep his good karma flowing.

Photo Credit:  Reuters

License:  Fair Use/Education

Contact Me

All Posts By Jay Brinker

I am an attorney located in Cincinnati, Ohio who practices in the areas of estate planning, probate, asset protection, and small business advice. I make a difficult and bewildering process as simple as possible. Most importantly, I provide "more for less" for my clients.