Is Wisconsin a County in Florida?

A 19 year old Wisconsin man murdered a Milwaukee area businessman in 1971.  After being sentenced to life in prison, he escaped prison in 1978, assumed the name of deceased child, established a trouble free life in Florida as a businessman himself, and eventually married in 1996.  Only when his wife pestered him for his birth certificate so he could obtain a passport did his life unravel and  she filed for divorce.  He committed suicide in 2011 five days after being asked to testify under oath about his real name.  The family of his murder victim recently filed suit to re-open his estate so they could file a claim against the estate because the estate did not publish a notice of his death in a Wisconsin paper.

Several points:

1.  Unless there was a wrongful death lawsuit and judgment, I am not sure what claim the victim’s family has against the estate 40 years after the murder.

2.  Ohio requires creditors to file a claim against an estate within six months of the date of death without exception.

3.  Ohio does not require publication of any notice for estate creditors.

4.  Florida does require publication of notice for creditors but only in the county of the decedent’s residence, not in other counties and presumably not in other states, including Wisconsin.

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Stuck Between Worlds?

In the non-story of the year, Patrick Swayze died in 2009 at which time he owned real estate in New Mexico.  His widow, Lisa Niemi, recently filed a will to transfer the real estate to their joint trust.  Swayze’s family members believe that the will was possibly forged because they did not receive any of his $40 million estate.  They contend that the signature does not look like his and that he was admitted to the hospital that day before dying two months later.

Several points:

1.  It is rare for someone to include parents and siblings in a will when one has a spouse (and children).  It is also possible that the trust provided for his family members.

2.  It would not be far fetched for his handwriting to become unrecognizable after  suffering from pancreatic cancer for 18 months.

3.  Who knew “Ghost” could be real?  In a turn of events, even without the help of Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg), Swayze’s family is channeling the greed of Sam Wheat’s  frenemy, Carl Bruner.

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Let The Wild Rumpus Start!

The NYT reported yesterday on the administration of the the estate of Maurice Sendak, author of the beloved “Where the Wild Things Are”. One of the 3 executors is his caretaker and housekeeper of 30 years (the other 2 are his attorney and the longtime production manager for his publisher). Together they decided to withdraw 10,000 books previously lent to the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia.  The museum has since sued the estate claiming that original Beatrix Potter books (“The Tale of Peter Rabbit”) and William Blake owned by Sendak are not children’s books and should be given to the museum per his will which left his children’s books to his foundation.   The bulk of the estate will create a museum and study center from his house and a foundation to support emerging artists.

Several points:

1.  Before the NYT ran corrections to the article, I was going to emphasize how important the selection of an executor is.  Sendak realized that by naming 3 executors of  his large estate.

2.  One of the last things we need in this country is another home turned into museum of an artist/author.  We have 15,000 already, most of which are underfunded and rarely visited (only 2,300 visitors to the Flannery O’Connor museum this year so far).

3.  The argument of the Rosenbach Museum that books by Beatrix Potter are not children’s books is specious.  No adult reads her works when not reading bedtime stories to children.

4.  Before the lawyers roar their terrible roars, gnash their terrible teeth, and roll their terrible eyes, they should concede that the works of William Blake are not children’s books (pictures aside) and appeal only to a small segment of adults who are impervious to the misspelling of “Tiger.”

Hat tip to Julie Engebrecht for forwarding the NYT article to me.

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Ex-Spouses Are Dead

A Naples, FL police officer shot his girlfriend before killing himself.  His ex-wife, whom he divorced in 2013, was the designated beneficiary of his police pension.  He had made the designation in 2004 during happier times.  Florida passed a law in 2012 which provides that if a divorced person fails to change the beneficiary of an asset post-divorce, the ex-spouse will be treated as deceased and not entitled to the asset.  Of course,  the ex-wife is contesting the applicability of the statute and claiming the pension benefits.

Several points:

1.  Ohio passed a similar statute in 1990.

2.  Ohio’s Supreme Court later ruled that the statute was only applicable to beneficiary designations made after 1990. To hold otherwise, would have retroactively modified a contract.

3.   If spouses dislike each other enough to divorce, they should follow through to change their wills and beneficiary designations after the divorce is final to avoid leaving them assets at death.

4.  Even without the pension, the ex-wife is better off than the girlfriend who was critically injured when she was shot in the face.

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Please, Please, Please (Settle This Estate)

James Brown died in 2006 and left most of his estate to charity.  A woman claiming to be his wife is contesting the will.  Tomirae Hynie and the Godfather of Soul married in 2001 but she was married to another man at the time.  She eventually had that marriage annulled in 2004, but Brown then refused to marry her because he was embarrassed about the prior marriage.   Hynie has stated that her prior marriage to her Pakistani husband was simply an immigration scam.  Brown named 6 children in his will and left out 5 others.  To benefit from his estate, the children have been ordered to submit to DNA testing to prove their parentage.  Those that pass are called DNA Proven children.

Several points:

1.  By law, spouses are entitled to a portion of a deceased spouse’s estate even if not provided for in the will.  In Ohio, spouse’s with more than one child will receive one-third of the estate.

2.  I have never heard the term “DNA Proven children” before.  I think it ranks with “thunder snow” as a great modern phrase.

3.  Hynie is very determined to inherit when she admits under oath to committing immigration fraud.  Although given recent events, that might not be the serious matter one would initially believe.

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World’s Greatest Dad?

Robin Williams’ will was admitted to probate court last week.  It provides that his entire $50 million estate will be left to a trust for the benefit of his 3 children.   The trust provides that his children will receive their inheritance in stages at the ages of 21, 25, and 30.

Several points:

1.  Net of estate taxes, each child will $10 million in installments of $3.33 million.

2.  I would never advise a client to leave such a large sum to a 21 or 25 year old – the child’s initiative to become a successful, independent, adult can be stifled.

3.  I recommend more installments with increasing percentages of funds as the child ages.

4.  Williams’ children will likely view their dad as the “World’s Greatest Dad” but I think this trust is a “Flubber.”

 

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This Never Works, So Why Try?

Alan Hruby is the 19 year old, college freshman accused of killing his parents and 17 year old sister so he could inherit his parent’s estates after they stopped supporting him financially.    The self described shopaholic who got a thrill from using credit cards was in debt to a loan shark for $3,000.  He allegedly confessed to killing his sister so he would be the sole heir.

Several quick points.

1.  A slayer statute (murderers cannot benefit from their crimes) will prevent him from inheriting any funds from his parents.

2.  The poor sister was killed because he wanted all of the estate when half was more than enough to cover the $3,000. How tragic.

3.  If one needs further proof that the adolescent brain does not fully develop until 25, just look at the 19 year upper class kid facing life in prison, or death,  without a family because of a $3,000 debt.

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Public Radio

Thank you to Chris DeSimio for inviting me to discuss various estate planning and inheritance issues with him on WVXU’s Cincinnati Edition hosted by Mark Heyne yesterday.

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News You Can Use – Estate Tax Exemption for 2015

The IRS announced that the estate tax exemption for 2015 will increase from $5.34 million to $5.43 million.  This is the amount that can be left estate tax free to heirs.  Those taxpayers suffering from dyslexia will see little difference.

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A Touch of Tears (and Cincinnati Pride)

Check out the article in Cincinnati Magazine about how various people assisted the family of the slain owner of Cosmic Pizza after his murder during a robbery last year.  The willingness of  strangers  and acquaintances to step up and help will moisten your eyes.  Cincinnati residents always look out for their own.  Props to everyone who assisted the Evans family.

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