After divorcing her husband of 10 years in 2014, Diane Wagner agreed to pay him $186/week in spousal support. When writing the checks to him, she has used the memo section to write “alimony/adult child support,” “bum,” “loser,” and “FOAD.” Her 61 year old ex-husband recently sued her on the grounds that her notations are causing him emotional distress and caused him to suffer a heart attack.
The six month old baby orphaned when her terrorist parents killed 14 people in San Bernardino is at the center of a custody dispute. Saira Khan, the sister of the slain terrorist, has asked for custody of the girl. Experts are predicting that family members will not get custody of the baby because county officials will not recommend custody for family members if they are shown to have have had knowledge of the attacks.
Paul Daugherty has once again allowed me to guest write his The Morning Line blog for the Cincinnati Enquirer.
At the risk of turning this into People Magazine, a quick corollary post to the most recent post on nonagenarian Sumner Redstone and his mental capacity and estate planning. Sydney Holland is Redstone’s 44 year old former live in girl friend who was mentioned in the Vanity Fair article about him.
Sumner Redstone is the divorced, 92 year old billionaire who owns a controlling interest in both CBS and Viacom. His relationships with two much younger women were profiled in Vanity Fair earlier this year. Since the publication of the article, and likely because of it, he has severed his contacts with both women.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As I previously wrote, William Davidson was the owner of the Detroit Pistons, Detroit Shock, and the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was also the 62nd richest man in the U.S. at the time of his death with a reported net worth of $4.5 billion in 2008 (and perhaps $3 billion at the time of his death in early 2009). His estate recently settled a dispute with the IRS over the amount of transfer taxes owed for $388 million after the IRS claimed a $2.7 billion deficiency after his estate had previously paid $245 million in transfer taxes. His estate has now sued Deloitte and Touche for $500 million on the grounds that the estate planning advice was bad and that the firm had wanted to land Mr. Davidson as a client for marketing purposes. Allegedly, Deloitte had promised that “he would win if lived and would he would win if he died” with their strategies.
1. I understand the frustration, but I do not see the damages (which are key for a lawsuit). The effective tax rate for deaths in 2009 was 45% which means that Mr. Davidson’s total tax bill conservatively could have been $1.35 billion. Instead, with tax planning he paid $583 million in taxes with only $133K in penalties. I do not see how his estate was harmed by the planning advice.
2. According to the figures, his estate declined in value by 1/3 in one year. The financial crisis was hard on everyone.
3. If he had died in 2010 like George Steinbrenner, his estate would not have owed any estate taxes because there was no estate tax that year (although there would have been a deficiency for his unpaid gift and generation skipping taxes).
4. I remain unconvinced that anyone truly “wins when they die.”
A young writer recently wrote a web piece titled “If You Have Savings in Your 20’s, You’re Doing Something Wrong.” The article contained the following gems:
Several quick points:
2. I am not sure I know anyone who received a $60K annual raise but she seems to think they are plentiful.
3. The value of the monthly $200 expenditure she mocks is $1 million after 45 years.
4. If she continues to spend what she makes, she will rent forever, not just the foreseeable future.
5. The writer and the 2 million plus people who liked her article on Facebook are likely constituents of Bernie Sanders because they are counting on others to provide for their retirement.
Meadow Williams is an actress of whom you have never heard and who appeared in movies you never saw. She was married to Gerald Kessler, founder of Natural Organics natural supplements company, for four years prior to his death earlier this year. He was 31 years older than her. In 2013, he changed his will to leave all of his $800 million estate to her while excluding his 2 children and 5 grandchildren. His children and grandchildren have contested the will on various grounds, including fraud, undue influence, lack of mental capacity, and the fact that Ms. Williams’ divorce from a prior husband was never finalized even though it was filed in 1994.
1. The fact that Ms. Williams might not have been officially divorced should not be a factor in whether Kessler’s will was valid – he could leave her money whether they were married or not. The estate tax implications vary, but the bequest remains the same.
2. Still, 20 years to finalize a divorce?
3. If Ms. Williams did convince her husband to leave her all of his estate, she might have over-reached. She could have lived comfortably on any single digit fraction of his estate while still leaving money for his children.
4. Ironic that that the children of a fortune based on natural supplements allege fraud in a will contest.
In a slow week in celebrity estate news, the only newsworthy item is an NYT article about cryonics and a young woman who had her brain preserved upon her death from cancer 2 years ago. To raise the $80K needed to pay for the freezing of her brain until her brain can be brought back to life in the future, she and her boyfriend posted a plea on Reddit. A post-death brain scan has shown that the chemo-preservatives needed to protect her brain from ice damage only reached the outer level of her brain.
Several points, mostly dorm room existential:
1. If you could be brought back to life, but everyone you knew had died, would you still want to be brought back?
2. If you are the boyfriend and your long dead girlfriend was brought back to life, would you leave your current spouse and family to be with her?
3. If 80% of your dead girlfriend’s brain is damaged by the freezing, would she still be the person you would want to be with?
4. Would Bill Clinton preserve Hillary’s brain? Or vice versa? I think we all know this answer.
5. If the young woman ever wanted Ted Williams’ autograph, or to meet Walt Disney, cryopreservation was her only hope.
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.