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When Plans Work Out 2

Jack won the open race at yesterday’s Lebanon Cross Country Invitational. When he learned he would be running the open race, he softly mentioned that he could win it. His plan was to be near the front and then take the lead – which he did at the 1.5 mile mark. As proud as I am of him, I am even happier for him.

I Have My Stuff, I Do Not Need Yours

It is another fallow period for celebrity estate planning news – the deaths of Jerry Lewis, Dick Gregory, and Ara Parseghian have yielded nothing newsworthy to date. Meanwhile, the NYT has an interesting piece on how children do not want their parents’ possessions when the parents downsize or move into a retirement home (or die). I see this with many of my clients and their children.

A few brief points:

1. In the age of furniture and decorations from Ikea and Wayfair, people do not want to decorate their homes with their parents’ 50 year old household items.

2. Unless an item is incredibly unique (i.e. Tiffany lamp, Baccarat crystal), it likely has little monetary value.

3. Personally, when my grandmother moved into a nursing home 20 years ago, all I wanted was her vintage lava lamp but I was also given (i.e. asked to remove) the bedroom set which I quickly disposed of.

4. If you have something you do not use or like, throw it away so your children do not have to throw it away after you die.

Photo Credit:  T.J. Kirkpatrick for the New York Times (from linked article)

License:  Fair Use/Education

Following the Eclipse Herd

Would you have either of these guys draft your will? I ran into Chuck Meyer (Santen and Hughes) during the eclipse at the Banks.

 

They Might Still Get Away With It

A Mason family – Mitch, Patricia, and Candace Stevenson – was indicted by a federal grand jury in June for money laundering associated with the receipt of life insurance proceeds. Allegedly, Patricia and Candace were the beneficiaries of two policies totaling nearly $3 million on the life of Mitch’s sister, Tina.

The 2009 application for life insurance stated that Tina had never been diagnosed with diabetes nor had taken medication within the previous 12 months. A physical exam was performed on a woman in Texas weighing 170 pounds. Tina actually weighed 380 pounds when she was in an emergency room three weeks prior to the application. Tina died in early 2012. Patricia and Candace received the death benefits and used them to purchase a Bentley convertible, make a $280K down payment on a former Homearama house, and other purchases. Unrelated, or perhaps not, Mitch and his son, Steven, have also allegedly been involved in a scrap metal scan.

Whew. Several points.

1. In Ohio, life insurance policies become incontestable two years after the application even if there is fraud. Companies have to pay the death benefit.

2. The Stevensons are likely being charged with money laundering because they cannot be charged with insurance fraud.

3. Money laundering is the crime of hiding the source of proceeds from a crime. I am not sure that using funds from a life insurance policy to purchase lots of bling amounts to money laundering.

4. In the bizarre coincidence category, the house purchased by the Stevensons was the subject of bank fraud 10 years ago that caused the builder to spend time in prison.

5. The Stevenson parents remain unindicted for naming their son Steven Stevenson.

Photo Credit:  Keith Biery Golick (KBG) for the Cincinnati Enquirer

License:  Fair Use/Education

Shooting and Drowning, Oh My

John Chakalos was a Connecticut octogenarian worth $40 million when he was murdered in 2013. No one has been charged with his killing although he was shot with the same type of gun his then 20 year old grandson had recently purchased.

Chakolos’ estate is to be distributed equally among his 4 daughters. However, last year one of his daughters, the mother of the gun owning grandson, disappeared at sea after the boat she was in with her son sank at sea after some holes were improperly repaired. The son/grandson was found 8 days later on a life raft. Now the 3 surviving daughters have asked the Connecticut probate court to declare the grandson as the murderer of Chakalos which they hope will prevent him from inheriting his mother’s share of the estate (and leave more for them).

Several points and one question:

1. The grandson should inherit his mother’s share of the estate. Slayer statutes apply when someone has been convicted of murder not merely suspected of murder.

2. Getting a bit wonky, the share of the now deceased daughter vested in her so technically she will inherit it and her estate will receive it and distribute it pursuant to her will.

3. If the Slayer Statute were to be applied, it should be applied to her estate although once again the son/grandson has not been convicted of her murder.

4. Is a 20 year old really capable of pulling off a perfect crime then repeating his success three years later?

5. If not, bad luck and odd coincidences certainly seem to follow the grandson.

Photo Credit:  Facebook?

License:  Fair Use/Education

Griffin Appeal Is Road Kill

A slow news cycle finally ended today with a local story. The Griffins are a large Northern Kentucky family which owned a rendering business (think road kill and restaurant grease) that was sold for $840 million in 2010. The business was operated along traditional gender roles with the males running the business and the women not participating.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a $584 verdict against two of the Griffin brothers in favor of three of their sisters. The verdict stemmed from the brothers’ handling of their parents’ estates two and three decades ago. The sisters became aware that something might have been amiss with the way the estates were handled when a piece of real estate they should have inherited was transferred to the family company for $1 in 2010 to facilitate the sale of the company. A federal court’s award of $178 million to each daughter was the subject of the appeal.

Four points and one disclaimer:

1. In the interest of full disclosure, half of my life ago I worked for the firm which represented the Griffin sons although I have no knowledge of the family or the matter.

2. I remain surprised that some of the claims by the sisters are not barred by the statute of limitations because the parents died 20 and 30 years ago respectively and their estates were probated then.

3. Good estate planning documents and/or a buy sell agreement which provided that the family business was to be transferred to the sons would have prevented most of this dispute.

4. The Supreme Court only hears cases involving questions of law or where courts differ on legal interpretation of an issue. Neither seems to apply here so this case is likely over.

5. Sale of real estate for $1? One would think that people in the rendering business would certainly know the mantra that pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.

Photo Copyright:  Bruce Crippen/Cincinnati Business Courier 

 

 

TML Again

I guest wrote Paul Daugherty’s TML blog today in the Cincinnati Enquirer. I cover Zach Cozart, OJ, some UC stuff, and a report from a family vacation (including a slideshow) that Doc suggested.

I hope you enjoy it. Thanks to Dan Izenson and Mark Sims for some topic ideas.

Photo:  Prague

Photo Credit:  Jay Brinker

License:  None   🙂 

New Sensation

The British press is abuzz with speculation that Tiger Lily Hutchence (full name – Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence Geldof) will inherit “millions” when she turns 21 next week. She is the daughter of the late INXS frontman, Michael Hutchence, who died in 1997 with a net worth reportedly between “penniless” and $40 million. Tiger Lily’s mom, Paula Yates, died from a heroin overdose four years later. Tiger Lily was later adopted by Yates’ former husband, Bob Geldof, who founded Live Aid and was later knighted.

A few points, only one of them really relevant:

1. I always discourage my clients from allowing their children to inherit any money, much less “millions”, when turning 21. I advise releasing trust funds in increasing amounts over a period of years.

2. Apropos of nothing, I think it is commendable of Bob Geldof to raise the daughter of his ex-wife and the man she left him for after the little girl was orphaned.

3. Whatever she inherits from her dad, nothing can compensate Tiger Lily for the tragedy in her life – the deaths of her parents, the heroin overdose of her half-sister, and the silly name bestowed upon her by her parents.

Photo Credit:  Unknown

License:  Fair Use/Education

Of Memorabilia and Men

Willie DeLuca was the manager of famed Cincinnati restaurant, Sorrentos Pizzeria. He was famous for having a heart of gold, appearing on David Letterman to balance stuff on his nose, and collecting sports and entertainment memorabilia (including hair from JFK and Paul McCartney) that he valued at $1 million. DeLuca died in 2006 and left his entire estate in a testamentary trust to his only child, Enrico. The trust funds and memorabilia were distributed to Enrico when he turned 21 several years ago. Enrico is now suing his uncle, Art DeLuca, for allegedly taking some of the memorabilia that was left to him by his father. The uncle had posted some of the items for sale on Facebook recently.

Several small points:

1. I never prepare testamentary trusts for my clients because they are a public record. A living trust is private and more flexible.

2. I also never advise my clients to have a trust distribute all of its assets when the child turns 21 – that age is too young for most children to manage the inheritance responsibly.

3. Enrico might have a statute of limitations problem with proving his claim because Willie died 10+ years ago and Enrico is only now filing suit.

4. Posting items for sale on Facebook which are a public record as belonging to Willie’s estate and trust is not advisable.

5. Hair snippets from JFK and Paul McCartney? How does one acquire those? Regardless, I would not give a nickel for them.

Photo Credit:   Cincinnati Enquirer/File Photo

License:  Fair Use/Education 

Back From Europe

Just returned from 10 days in Central Europe with Janice, Blair, and Jack. Visited Prague, Bratislava, Vienna, and Munich. Adjacent pic is my favorite from the trip. Post to follow later.

The Persistence of Illegitimacy

Salvador Dali died in 1989 and left his entire estate to the Spanish government. Pilar Tabel is a Tarot card reader and fortune teller who claims that she is Dali’s daughter due to a brief romance between her mother and the famous artist in the mid-50’s. She has tried for 10 years to prove that Dali is her father. A DNA test conducted from his death mask was inconclusive. She alleged that she did not receive the results of a DNA test conducted the next year. Dali was allegedly gay or simply preferred masturbation or voyeurism so the paternity claim of this woman seems far fetched. She also sued an author for supposedly basing a fictional character on her. Nonetheless, a Spanish court has ordered the exhumation of his body.

Several points:

1. If you read the entire article, you might wish to shower afterwards. A guy who is turned on sexually by Hitler is abnormal.

2. I would think that a case brought 28 years after someone’s death would be barred by the statute of limitations or the principle of laches.

3. In the U.S., Dali would not be obligated to leave his daughter, legitimate or illegitimate, anything.

4. It is unlikely that the woman did not receive the results of the second DNA test – I believe that they were negative and she simply waited another 9 years before pursuing this claim.

5. I doubt I am the only person who finds this matter incredibly surreal.

Photo Credit:  Salvador Dali/Government of Spain

License:  Fair Use/Education

Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell

Resorting again to advice columns for material. In “Ask Carolyn,” a reader with three children including a son with ADHD who has threatened violence is miffed that her pregnant sister has not chosen her to be the guardian of her forthcoming child. The sister has continued to agree to serve as the guardian for the reader’s three children. The reader believes that her sister is judging her parenting skills even though “every single day is a struggle for her due to her son.”

A few poignant and sad points:

1. The pregnant sister has two likely concerns about the reader – the ability of her sister to handle another child when “every single day is a struggle” and the possibility of physical harm to her child from his cousin.

2. I always advise my clients to discuss guardianship with the potential guardians. I do not advise telling someone that they are not the guardian because of the possibility of unnecessarily bruised feelings for a scenario that might never arise.

3. There is a never right answer on the guardianship question – there is merely a best answer or least worse answer. No one will raise your child the same way you would (nor will someone clean your house like you or cut your grass the way you would), but you have to settle for the best option considering all factors such as location, parenting style, educational beliefs, and demographics. Not having a child raised by a family with a potentially violent child who causes his mother to struggle every day is an easy decision to make.

4. I love people who think about estate planning while they are pregnant.

Photo Credit:  Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post

License:  Fair Use/Education

 

Justice Is Blind

Not an estate planning post, but more of a public service announcement in the financial arena. Lori Sattler is an acting NY Supreme Court Judge. In the process of selling an apartment and buying another one, she followed the instructions in an email supposedly from her attorney and wire transferred $1 million to a fraudulent account which then wired the money to a bank in China. The money is long gone.

Several points of varying interest:

1. When transferring $1 million, it makes sense to verbally confirm the instructions regarding the wire transfer.

2. It has been a tough month for judges in NY between this judge getting scammed and the Court of Appeals justice who died with an outdated will that contained deceased beneficiaries and ignored her husband.

3. Perhaps Judge Sattler can commiserate with John Podesta at a Democratic fundraiser about the travails of falling for a link in an email.

Photo Credit:  AP/File

License:  Fair Use/Education

 

Prayers For Otto

Otto Warmbier is the Cincinnatian who was held captive by North Korea for 17 months for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda sign on a college visit. While starting to serve a 15 year sentence of hard labor, he was beaten so severely that he suffered a brain injury and returned home Tuesday night in a coma. Doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center have described his condition as “unresponsive wakefulness.”

One small legal point:

1. Once a child turns 18, I encourage parents to have their child sign a health care power of attorney, living will, and HIPAA Release so the parents can access their child’s medical records and make medical decisions for them. Without those documents, the parents might be stymied in making decisions in the best interest of their child.

2. This story breaks my heart. No snark here out of respect for Otto and his parents. Tell your child you love him/her tonight.

Photo Credit:  Christopher Oquendo for dailymail.com

License:  Fair Use/Education

Not A Great Day In Harlem

The suspicious April death of Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, the first Black woman to serve on New York’s Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) has been ruled a suicide. Her body was pulled from the Harlem River the day after her fourth husband reported her missing. Video recorded her walking near the banks of the river.

This is not a whodunnit piece. Instead, the interesting info is that Judge Abdus-Salaam left an estate worth $2 million and a 2004 will that pre-dated her most recent marriage by 10 years. The will left 25% of her estate to her mother who died in 2012 and the balance equally among her siblings, including her brother who died in 2014. The primary asset in her estate was a Harlem brownstone valued at $2 million which she purchased in 1980 for $6,000. Her husband is a minister and has blessedly waived his statutory right to inherit part of her estate even though he was not included in her will.

Several points, some salient:

1. Judge Abdus-Salaam missed many opportunities to update her will – the death of her mother, the death of her brother, and her subsequent fourth marriage.

2. I advise my clients to review their estate plan every five years to assure that key events like the death of a beneficiary or the divorce of the designated guardian are taken into account in the documents.

3. The widower of Judge Abdus-Salaam might have waived his rights to inherit due to a pre-nuptial agreement between him and the judge although he might simply be an honorable man and waived the rights so her family could benefit.

4. I doubt that I am the only person who wishes he had invested de minimis amounts in Harlem real estate in 1980.

5. I am aware of the Hudson River and the East River, but the Harlem River is new to me.

 

Photo Credit:  AP

License:  Fair Use/Education

Memorial Day Fun(draising)

Seven guys, 38 miles, four squares (Mt. Lookout, Hyde Park, Glendale, and Fountain), 2 states, and $1,750 raised for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

I hope you enjoyed the holiday.

No Winning Here

Barbara Schwartz was a Manhattan socialite who was stabbed to death by her shut-in son, Jonathan, in 2011. She was survived by second husband, Burton Fischler, the son who killed her, and a second son, Kenneth. Her estate was estimated at $6 million at the time of her death.

In the six years since her murder, her widower allegedly lost $4.3 million of her estate in six months due to poor financial management including day trading, Kenneth committed suicide in 2013 when he learned of the financial losses, and Jonathan was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Schwartz’s first husband is now in charge of the estate and has sued to stop Kenneth from inheriting her estate. Got it? Jonathan killed her and survived. Kenneth did not kill her and committed suicide.

As if that is not complicated enough, Fischler is now challenging the pre-nup he and Schwartz signed in 2000. He claims that he signed it under pressure from her family and that he received bad legal advice. He also claims that Schwartz promised him she would tear it up later. His share of the estate under the pre-nup is $1.25 million which is in trust.

There are so many fun issues, let’s address a few:

1. The inheritance of the mentally ill son is being challenged under NY’s Slayer Statute which prohibits individuals from inheriting due to killing someone.

2. The ex-husband is not a truly disinterested party in trying to stop his son from inheriting from Mrs. Schwartz. If the committed son does not inherit, his share will go to the share of the son who committed suicide. Because that son is deceased and did not have children, his share will go to his father (the ex-husband).

3. I think that Fischler might have a statue of limitations issue with his challenge to the pre-nup. Post-2008, NY has a 3 year statute of limitations for such challenges which does not apply to prior pre-nups. That statute was six years although it did not start running during the marriage during some areas of NY. Either way, the statute is most likely applicable to challenges from divorce, not death.

4. Fischler’s arguments for contesting the pre-nup seem to be in the “let’s throw a bunch of mud and hope something sticks” vein. The poor legal advice line might work in a death penalty case with a court appointed attorney but should not work in a pre-nup matter where Fischler chose his own attorney. President Trump would likely call Fischler a “loser.”

Photo Credit:  Unknown for NY Daily News

License:  Fair Use/Education

Laws Are For the Little People

In an unusual moment of sanity, the federal government announced on Friday that it would stop seizing the tax refunds of taxpayers whose parents owed money to Social Security from years ago.  This has been governmental policy since late 2008.  In typical bureaucratic efficiency, the IRS would send letters to addresses that had not been used in 40 years or would inexplicably be unable to contact someone who had lived at the same address for 40 years.  In its defense, the IRS does not pass these inane laws, it merely enforces what Congress has passed.
 
Three quick points:
 
1.  Typically debts die with a person and the heirs of an individual are not liable for his debts.  This is an exception. 
 
2.  If you want to point fingers for this law punishing innocent taxpayers for the alleged sins of their parents, point to Todd Platts, a former Republican Congressman; a Democratic House and Senate in 2008; and a legislative process that allows crap like this to get inserted into a Farm Bill.
 
3.  It is nice of the WaPo to take a breath from its anti-Trump obsession and to focus on the injustice caused by this process.
 
Photo Credit:  Evelyn Hockstein for the Washington Post
License:  Fair Use/Education

Gronk Would Not Do This

 
Aaron Hernandez is the former New England Patriot who committed suicide last month while imprisoned for murdering a friend.  He had only recently been acquitted of the murder of two other individuals and was still appealing his prior murder conviction.  Since his suicide, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has vacated his murder conviction because his appeals were still in process.  Within hours after his arrest in 2013, the Patriots terminated his contract and did not pay the remaining guaranteed money owed to him.  
 
In his suicide note addressed to his fiancé, Hernandez wrote “you’re rich.” Many reporters have interpreted that to mean that he was thinking not only of what money he still owned but also that she would collect $6 million owed to him by the Patriots under his last contract.  Some think that the Patriots would be on the hook if they terminated Hernandez’s contract because he was convicted of murder but was later exonerated due to this peculiarity of Massachusetts law.  
 
A few points on the intersection of two of my favorite topics – probate law and the NFL:
 
1.  Hernandez and the Patriots actually settled his grievance for unpaid guaranteed money under his last contract for $1 million in 2014 likely meaning there is no further money to collect from the Pats.
 
2.  The victims of Hernandez have filed lawsuits against him.  Any judgments against him would be paid from his estate probably rendering it insolvent.  
 
3.  Unless Hernandez signed a will, his fiancé will not receive any portion of his estate because fiancés are not statutory heirs.  His daughter would inherit his estate if he did not leave a will.
 
4.  Drafting a will and thinking about the application of an obscure Massachusetts law involve long term planning and thinking which seem beyond the acuity of a guy seemingly lacking impulse control. 
Photo Credit:  AP/Elise Amendola
License:  Fair Use/Education

Fountain of Youth = Deprivation and Sorrow?

 
Besides people battling over the release of Prince’s music, there is not much happening in the wills and trusts arena.  Somewhat related, Emma Morano was the last living person born in the 19th century when she died last month at the age of 117.  The NYT has a brief piece on her possessions and possible reasons for her longevity.  
 
Morano had been married briefly before separating in her late 30s, had a son who died before turning one, and worked until she was 75.  She lived in a two room apartment for the past 27 years, had not left the apartment in years, ate 3 raw eggs per day for 100 years, and usually ate pasta with raw ground beef until she stopped cooking five years ago.   
 
No points of any significance, just two observations:
 
1.  The article did not mention a will but I doubt she had any assets any than a few tchotchkes left in her name.
 
2.  If eating three raw eggs and raw ground beef daily while staying housebound is the secret to longevity, count me out.  I will gladly live a shorter life to enjoy cooked food and going outdoors.
 
Photo Credit:  Gianni Cipriano for New York Times
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.