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.
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.
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.
Ben Novack was the son of the builder of Miami’s Fountainebleu Hotel. Both he and his 86 year old mother were murdered at the behest of his wife of 18 years, a former stripper, within 3 weeks of each other in 2009 to collect his $10 million estate. His wife was convicted of his murder in 2012 and is now serving life in prison. His wife was designated as the primary beneficiary of his 2006 will, but is prohibited from inheriting due to Florida’s Slayer Statute. An appeals court recently held, though, that her daughter and grandsons may inherit his $4 million estate as his contingent will beneficiaries because the Slayer Statute does not apply to them. Novack’s cousins and other distant relatives (including Steve Wynn’s wife, Andrea Wynn) are still claiming that his wife unduly influenced his will and that it should be thrown out.
Several quick points:
1. The undue influence argument should be a non-starter because after a marriage of 15 years, a husband will always leave his assets to his wife and then her children if they do not have their own children.
2. Novack violated one of my tenets – never marry a stripper. Another tenet is never marry someone you met in rehab.
3. Attorney fees are the only thing that outpaces appreciation of South Florida real estate if Novack’s estate declined in value by $6 million over 6 years.
4. Andrea Wynn must have a punitive pre-nup with her hotel magnate husband, billionaire Steve Wynn, if she feels compelled to chase the few remaining millions of her murdered cousin.
At the risk of turning this blog into TMZ-lite or another gossip site, Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom have called off their pending divorce. Lamar has recovered enough from his cocaine and Viagra induced coma that he is now in physical therapy.
Two brief points:
1. Despite my advice to the contrary, good for Lamar that he did not revise his estate planning and health care documents to remove Khloe from them as beneficiary and health care decision maker. He saved some drafting fees while also saving his life. I suspect other disabled individuals did not have such good fortune when their estranged spouse was calling the shots.
2. James Harden apparently does not share my sentiments about Lamar’s reconciliation with Khloe.
Lamar Odom remains in a coma in Las Vegas after being found unconscious in a Nevada brothel after going on a weekend bender with cocaine and herbal viagra. His estranged wife, Khloe Kardashian, is reportedly making his medical decisions for him even though they separated two years ago and signed their divorce papers in July. Los Angeles divorce courts have a four month backlog of divorce cases.
Several quick points:
1. When individuals separate, they should implement new estate planning documents including health care powers of attorney. During a divorce, the estranged spouse will be better off financially if the other spouse dies prior to the divorce finalization so it is best not to have the spouse in charge of one’s medical decisions.
2. That said, new estate planning documents are usually not a priority for a guy who was allegedly recently found on skid row.
3. Odom’s mom died when he was a teenager, his father was a heroin addict, and he had an infant die of SIDS. When the Kardashian family was his oasis of normalcy, the man never had a chance.
A Tucson guitar shop is being sued by the estate of Jimi Hendrix over the ownership of a guitar previously owned by Hendrix. The shop owner claims to have bought the guitar, valued at between $750K and $1 million, from an individual who obtained it from Sheldon Reynolds, the former husband of Hendrix’s sister. The estate claims that the shop does not have title to the guitar because the guitar was stolen by Reynolds. The estate also claims that the guitar is priceless to the Hendrix family.
1. Under Ohio law, a thief can obtain “voidable title” which means that he owns the property until the legitimate owner claims it. However, once the thief transfers the property to a purchaser who is unaware that the property is stolen, the purchaser becomes the lawful owner.
2. If this were an Ohio case, the guitar shop owner would have valid title to the guitar no matter how Sheldon Reynolds obtained it before selling it – whether through gift from his wife (doubtful) or from his 14 year old step-son giving it to him by mistake (less doubtful) or simply taking it - because the shop obtained it from a third party who was unaware it was stolen.
3. In spite of the family’s claim that the guitar is priceless to them, I suspect it is really worth $750K to $1 million to them.
The widow of Robin Williams and his children from his prior marriages settled their dispute over his estate this week. His third wife was seeking some of his personal belongings, which he left to his children in his will, and funds to continue to reside in their home for the rest of her life. Williams had left her the home in trust, but apparently did not set aside a specific sum to provide for the upkeep of the house for her lifetime. The undisclosed settlement provides that she will have sufficient funds to live in the house the rest of her life, plus she will be able to keep their wedding gifts, a bike they purchased on their honeymoon, a watch, and the tuxedo he wore to their wedding. They also disputed the ownership of various photographs.
Three brief points:
1. This dispute was really about the funds to keep her in their Tiburon house. The rest of the items are inconsequential.
2. I am glad his children were able to allow his widow to have one watch and one bike from his watch and 50 bike collection.
3. In the era of digital photography, does anyone really fight over the ownership of pictures when they are readily reproduced?
Sam Simon was renowned as the co-creator of “The Simpsons.” When he died earlier this year, he left an estate worth at least $100 million, most of which he left to charity. He left the care of his rescue dog, a Cane Corso (think a pit bull on steroids, dating from Roman times) to the dog’s trainer. Alas, he did not leave any funds to the trainer for the care of the dog which requires twice a week acupuncture at $3,600 per month, gluten free regionally sourced food for $185 month, and $150 grooming every three weeks. The trainer also requested his $7,500 monthly fee to work with the dog to keep it from “changing your life in an instant (i.e. mauling)” even though the trainer now owned the dog. The trainer is upset that the trustee will not provide him the funds he has requested to care for the dog.
1. Trusts to provide for the care of pets after the death of an owner are permissible under Ohio law.
2. If Mr. Simon’s trust did not specifically provide for the care of the dog after his death, the Trustee is not permitted to distribute funds to the new owner of the dog.
3. When leaving someone one’s pet, one should also leave a sum of money to care for the animal. I always address this issue with my clients, lest they impose a financial burden on their friends.
4. Mr. Simon could have made a huge difference in many human lives with the $140K he was spending annually on a dog prone to attacking anyone who walked onto his property, although attacking Howard Stern is understandable.
5. Gluten free, regionally sourced food for dogs? L.A. deserves our scorn and mockery.
Just returned from Dad’s Weekend for Blair’s sorority at Indiana University. It is always great to spend time with her. Post to follow soon.