An animal shelter in Collinsville, Oklahoma which always struggled financially received a $188K check from the estate of an unindentified deceased animal lover. Two weeks later, it received a request from the law firm administering the decedent’s estate to return the check because the bequest was intended for a shelter with the same name in Collinsville, Illinois. The shelter has not yet returned the check, although it has said it will.
1. In making charitable bequests, I always list the address of the charity to prevent this type of confusion.
2. Because of its error, the law firm has stated it will donate $12K to the Oklahoma shelter, which is 6x more than the shelter usually has in the bank.
3. Apparently the Oklahoma shelter spent some of the $188K, perhaps $12K, or else it would have returned the funds last month.
An LA woman might lose the house she shared with her common law husband of 27 years. He allegedly hand wrote a will leaving the house to her. Nonetheless, the Los Angeles County Public Administrator is proceeding with a sale of the house for non-payment of debts and potential buyers traipse through the house while she is present.
1. Even with a handwritten will, the will must be probated. Leaving it in a drawer does not transfer any assets.
2. The common law husband could have added her to the deed as a joint tenant to immediately transfer the house to her upon his death.
3. Some like to decry notions of traditional marriage, but spouses have more rights and protections under law than non-spouses including the right to inherit when there is no will and the right to remain in a house.
4. Even people of modest means and limited assets need estate planning.
5. Newton’s First Law applies to government – a government procedure in motion stays in motion. Someone should pause the bureaucratic machine until the woman’s rights can be ascertained. If banks were behaving this way, there would be an outcry, protests, Congressional hearings, and a class action suit. Because it is a governmental agency, people shrug and figure “that is government.”
I wish I had the screen rights for this story. A wealthy tech investor was murdered by gang members who were related to the harem of prostitutes who spent considerable time in the house he shared with his ex-wife. In addition to 2 adult children, he had 2 children with a former prostitute who are now seeking support and half of his estate.
1. The claims of the prostitutes’s daughters will depend on how he defined children in his will.
2. Not to be Puritanical, hanging with unsavory characters and living a hedonistic life might be fun, but it rarely ends well.
A Holocaust survivor who created a $40 million fortune in real estate died without a will last year. Because a world wide search for relatives has turned up none, New York state will receive his fortune.
1. Escheating to the state is incredibly rare because the laws of intestacy look for any living relative, including cousins and their descendants and any one who falls under the nebulous term “next of kin.”
2. A 97 year old man who is in failing health should not procrastinate in his will preparation.
3. His fellow Holocaust survivor who said “He was a very smart man but he died like an idiot” is accurate.
Lois Pope, widow of the founder of the National Enquirer, is seeking a restraining order against her son for allegedly stalking her while demanding money. When the family sold the tabloid in 1988, Mrs. Pope received $200 million and her son received $20 million which she claims he spent by 2008. She gave him another $16 million which he has allegedly spent. In a television interview, he complained that she has spent $40+ million on 2 private jets, $2 million on international vacations, and made large gifts to nieces and nephews.
1. A trust would have helped the son manage and preserve his funds.
2. The trust could have tied distributions to income earned by him which would have forced him to get a job, which apparently he has never held.
3. If the mom gave her son $16 million, she was obligated to file a gift tax return and pay taxes at a 35% – 45% rate.
4. If mom wants to buy planes and use them for flying her dogs around the country, she may do that and the son is powerless to complain.
5. If the son wants more money from his mom, he should refrain from criticizing her on television. The old axiom about not biting the hand that feeds would seem to apply.
No snark, today. Just advice.
Nancy Lanza, mother of the Newtown shooter, left her entire estate to her sons under the terms of a 1994 will which was executed 15 years prior to her divorce. The preliminary filings show an estate with $60K liquid funds and presumably the house she resided in.
1. At some point she and her husband should have revised their estate plan to include a trust for the care of their son (and to minimize estate taxes).
2. Post-divorce, she should have revised her estate plan to remove the ex-husband from her documents and to include a trust for her son.
3. After a divorce from a director/VP at GE Energy Financial Services, and receiving $26K/month alimony, there will be substantially more than $59K in assets. All the more reason to leave the assets in a trust for her son rather than giving it to him directly assuming he would have survived her.
4. All parents with children who are unable to manage finances, whether due to young age or a disability, need to have a trust as part of their estate plan.
5. Anyone who is recently divorced should revise their documents to remove the former spouse and to ensure that the documents reflect their current wishes.
Ryan O’Neal and the University of Texas are engaged in a lawsuit over a painting of Farrah Fawcett created by Andy Warhol which could be worth $30 million. Farrah’s will left her entire art collection, including another portrait of her by Warhol, to the University of Texas. Mr. O’Neal claims that the painting was given to him by Warhol and that he had taken it to Farrah’s house in 1998 after they broke up because his then girlfriend did not like it in the bedroom.
1. It is generally in poor taste to hang a portrait of an ex in the bedroom while involved with someone else. Kudos to Mr. O’Neal for removing it.
2. When taking a piece of art to an ex, one might want to reclaim it in the 11 intervening years instead of waiting until the ex dies.
3. Apparently the University of Texas is not satisfied with a $7.2 billion endowment and is willing to fight for more.
The woman at the center of the U.S.’s most expensive probate battle died this week in Poland. Barbara Piasecka Johnson was a maid who worked for J. Seward Johnson, Jr.’s family, of Johnson and Johnson renown. Within 2 years, then 76 year old Mr. Johnson divorced his second wife and married the then 34 year old servant. When Johnson died 12 years later, he omitted 5 of his 6 children from his will and left nearly all of his of $500 million to his wife. The children contested the will alleging undue influence and settled for $40 million.
1. Mr. Johnson could have provided for both his widow and his children by creating a QTIP trust (a new trust back in 1983) which would have provided assets remaining after his wife’s death would be distributed to his children.
2. Contesting a bequest to a maid on grounds of undue influence is easy. Contesting a bequest to a maid who has been married to the deceased for 12 years on similar grounds is nearly impossible.
3. Marrying someone younger than one’s children is rarely a good idea. It might be better to date her and leave her a condo and a Bentley in a will and preserve family relations.
Los Angeles Lakers owner, Jerry Buss, died in February at the age of 80. He was known for epitomizing California cool and was often seen with one or more young women on his arm. In his will, he left a Honolulu condo and a 2009 Bentley to his 20-something girlfriend, and the rest of his assets to his trust.
For privacy reasons, he could have transferred the condo and car to his trust, and made the bequest from the trust. This also would have avoided the cost of ancillary probate in Hawaii.
Of course, privacy might have defeated the purpose of letting the world know that at the time of his death he was an 80 year old man with a late 20′s girlfriend. Estate planning always has trade-offs.