- Monday, 13 October 2014 21:06
Josh Powell is the Utah man who presumably killed his wife in 2009 and concocted an improbable story to explain her disappearance (he took his young sons on an impromptu camping trip at midnight on a snowy, December night). During a custody dispute with his wife’s parents, he locked himself in a cabin, hatcheted his sons to death, and blew up the cabin immolating himself in 2012. His brother, who was suspected of helping him dispose of his wife’s body, committed suicide a year later. His father, who exhibited odd behavior after the wife’s disappearance, served two years for voyeurism after authorities found pictures of neighborhood girls and women on his computer.
This case is back in the news because the Powell family and the Cox family are squabbling over the sizable life insurance proceeds on the lives of Powell and his wife. A trust created by Susan Powell is the beneficiary of the policy on her life. The trust presumably provided that if her husband and son were not living that the proceeds were to be divided between the Powell family and the Cox family. Her father as conservator of her estate changed the trust in 2013 to provide that only the Cox family would benefit from the trust. Josh Powell designated his now deceased brother as the beneficiary of his policy after his wife’s disappearance. His brother and sister are fighting the Cox family for those benefits.
Whew. Several points:
1. Bad facts make bad law. On the face it seems that no one in the Powell family should benefit from the misdeeds of their family member but the law correctly applied provides otherwise and the families should divide the insurance proceeds, or at least keep the proceeds from the policy on their respective family member and have the trust proceeds evenly divided per the trust terms.
2. It is crazy to think that someone acting on behalf of another person who the law presumes is alive but everyone else know is dead can change the trust created by that person three years after the date she died.
3. The honorable action for the Powell family members would be to walk away from this. However, when one brother is a murderer, the other is a conspirator, and the father is a convicted voyeur, all shame is already in the public sphere so they might as well see if they can grab some money, consequences and public opinion be damned.
- Wednesday, 01 October 2014 22:02
Not being a reader of People magazine, I missed the news of the Brad Pitt- Angelina Jolie August wedding. I had assumed they were married years ago. Apparently they executed a fairly public pre-nuptial agreement prior to their wedding. The agreement provides that in the event they divorce they will each keep their respective assets but any marital assets will mostly benefit their children and various global orphanages. The odd provision is that in the event Mr. Pitt is unfaithful due to Ms. Jolie’s children penchant for adopting children as if they were Tamagotchi, she will receive most of the custody rights for the children.
1. Pre-nuptial agreements are advisable in the event of second marriages or where there is disparate wealth between the parties. When both parties are Hollywood A Listers with similar net worths, they are more for show than practical effect.
2. The behavior clause about infidelity of Mr. Pitt is unlikely to be enforced by a court.
3. Am I the only one who appreciates the coincidence that Mr. Pitt finally tied the knot with Ms. Jolie only a month before his bromance buddy, George Clooney, married?
4. Presumably Angelina will keep the vial of Billy Bob Thornton’s blood in the event of a divorce.
- Monday, 15 September 2014 10:11
The will of Andrew Madoff, son of Ponzi schemer Bernie, was admitted to probate court last week. The will reportedly left his personal property valued at $11.5 million to his 2 daughters. He left one third of his $4.5 million of real estate to his estranged wife, and the remaining 2/3 of it to a trust for his long time girlfriend. His girlfriend is to receive $50,000 per month for the rest of her life. Notably, his wife withdrew her 5+ year old divorce filing 6 months ago. Andrew long maintained he was unaware of his father’s activities even though he worked for his father’s firm.
1. It was smart, if not cynical and financially calculating, of his wife to withdraw her divorce complaint prior to his death because assets pass to a spouse free of federal estate taxes.
2. I suspect that he also has a funded trust because there is no way to pay his girlfriend $50K monthly for the rest of her life based on a trust with $3 million principal ($2 million after estate taxes).
3. If there is a funded trust, it behooves the question why these $16 million of assets were not transferred to the trust prior to his death and why the will did not simply pour all assets into the trust and keep these provisions from the public eye.
4. The karma at work in Bernie Madoff;s life is almost commensurate with the amount of money he stole – reported to the feds by the sons he protected from his scheme, estranged from them afterwards, and now both of them dead before the age of 50 while he is alive in prison at 76. Almost commensurate.
- Thursday, 28 August 2014 19:30
A Scottish nurse falsely accused her grandfather of sexually abusing her when she was younger in an attempt to accelerate her inheritance. After the charges were found to be bogus, she was sentenced to 22 months in jail for fabricating the claims which forced her grandfather to spend some time in jail after they were made.
1. Her plot was as poorly conceived as the USC football player’s story about jumping off a balcony to rescue a drowning nephew. There is no law that treats criminals as deceased and then accelerates an inheritance.
2. While she is in jail she might wish to study a table of consanguinity and learn that even if her grandfather were dead, her grandmother would inherit his estate. Her own parent would inherit if her grandmother were deceased.
3. Consider it a hunch, but I suspect she will now never inherit a dime (or should I say shilling) from her grandfather.
- Monday, 25 August 2014 19:49
Do not wait too long to revise your will.
- Sunday, 24 August 2014 18:46
The executors of Lauren Bacall’s estate filed her will in probate court on Friday. Her will, which she executed last fall, left her $27 million estate in equal shares to her 3 children save for a few small five figure bequests to household staff and to her son to care for her dog. She also left $250K to each of her grandsons to be used for college with them receiving the remainder at the age of 30.
1. A funded trust would have provided her privacy so the public would not know about her intentions.
2. A trust would also be a more efficient means of managing the funds for her grandsons.
3. With college tuition increases not grounded in economic reality, I hope the $250K is enough to fully cover college expenses for her grandsons.
- Friday, 22 August 2014 09:54
Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer has once again graciously allowed me to guest write his The Morning Line blog.
- Tuesday, 12 August 2014 21:34
Winnie Mandela, the ex-wife of Nelson Mandela, filed a claim against his estate seeking control of his ancestral home for her daughters. Mandela divorced Winnie in 1996 after he charged that she had been unfaithful to him during his 27 year imprisonment. Mandela’s will left the ancestral home to his 3rd wife who later waived her right to half of his estate in exchange for properties in her native Mozambique. Mandela’s grandson later ordered the exhumation of the bodies of 3 of Mandela’s children from the ancestral home, but Mandela’s daughter had the bodies re-interred at the disputed home.
Several points, if I must:
1. It is odd that an elderly mother would be the one to file a claim on behalf of her middle aged daughters. Adolescence is seemingly prolonged every year.
2. If the South African court system moves at the same pace as it did for the Oscar Pistorius trial, Winnie and the third wife will die before there is a resolution.
3. Whoever can convince the various members and factions of the Mandela family to have a group hug deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.
- Monday, 11 August 2014 20:25
My favorite piece was his take on golf. He will be missed.
- Tuesday, 29 July 2014 20:23
Casey Kasem died a month ago but his body remains unburied. Reportedly, just prior to his daughter obtaining a court order to keep his body in the U.S., his wife had his body shipped to Montreal, the home of her alleged boyfriend. Additionally, Jean Kasem’s law firm is seeking to resign as her attorneys after she has allegedly incurred unpaid legal bills of $500,000 during her dispute with his children. The law firm has threatened to file a claim a claim against his estate for payment of its services.
Two points, if I must:
1. Creditors of a decedent can file a claim against the estate for unpaid debts. Services rendered on behalf of one party in a deathbed dispute are not necessarily the responsibility of the estate especially if the party loses.
2. I would would not think too long about continuing a romantic relationship with a meat throwing and scripture quoting partner who has her deceased husband’s remains shipped to my hometown. To paraphrase Kramer on Seinfeld, “Two words, Jerry. Break up.”
Jean Kasem, widow of Casey Kasem
- Sunday, 27 July 2014 09:31
Just returned from 2 weeks in Spain and Morocco. Blog post to follow. In the meantime, here are some vacation pics of my children.
Blair and Jack at Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech. Gardens were created by Yves St. Laurent.
Blair and Jack at Medersa Ben Youssef in Marrakech.
Blair and Jack in Grenada with view of Alhambra.
Blair and Jack at Alcazar, Seville, Spain.
Jack in Marrakech
Blair wit snake charmer in Jemaa el-Fnaa Square in Marrakech. Note cobra in the right hand corner.
Jack with “ape” of Gibraltar.
Blair and Jack in Barcelona.
Blair and Jack at Gibraltar with Africa in background.
Blair at Medersa Ben Youssef in Marrakech.
- Sunday, 13 July 2014 07:27
When jet setting heiress, Doris Duke, died in 1993 she left a small trust for her last living relative, Walker Inman, Jr. Inman lived with her after being orphaned at the age of 13. He had previously inherited an inflation adjusted equivalent of $350 million from other relatives when he turned 21.
Inman died of a methadone overdose in 2010. He left his remaining fortune in trust for his now 16 year old twins. The twins and their mother are suing the trustees of the trusts trying to determine how much money is left while complaining that the trustees they were too generous in giving money to Inman who spent $90K per month. Meanwhile the mother is asking the trustees to buy a $29 million ranch and a $4.2 house, and reimburse her $17K for 4 days in Vegas. His fifth wife, and proverbial former topless dancer, has asked for $1.9 million. The trustee has vetoed those requests. The twins will receive their inheritance at 21.
1. 21 is way too young to receive a principal distribution of any significance. I stagger distributions in my trusts with increasing amounts over time with the first distribution at 25 and the final distribution at the age of 40.
2. An anti-alcoholism, drugs, and gambling clause is also recommended to prevent heirs from harming themselves with their inheritance.
3. Supposedly nothing is sadder than the tears of a clown, but I think a middle aged man dying of a drug overdose is close. Sad meaning pitiful.
- Thursday, 03 July 2014 21:04
The trial deciding whether Shelly Sterling can sell the Los Angeles Clippers as trustee of her husband’s trust will start on Monday, July 7. Her husband, Donald Sterling, was banned from the NBA for life and fined $2.5 million after his “girlfriend” recorded him making racist statements. After he was declared mentally incapacitated by 2 physicians, he was removed as trustee of his trust which enabled his wife to sell the team to Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. The purchase price is the second highest for a sports franchise and is 2x the second highest American purchase. Sterling only paid $13.5 million in 1981. The trial will focus on the trust terms.
1. The trusts I draft for my clients have similar provisions for removing a mentally incapacitated trustee.
2. That Sterling is not accepting of the incredible $2 billion offer for a franchise known as the most inept in all of sports during his ownership tenure is evidence that he might be mentally incapacitated.
3. His argument will be that he is not incompetent but simply racist and making a bad business decision. He might wish to re-think that.
- Sunday, 29 June 2014 21:08
The NYT blogged about a woman who left her estate to her daughters while disinheriting the children of her son who predeceased her. Although she was suffering from dementia, two weeks before her death she re-affirmed a prior will which included the grandchildren from her dead son. She then changed her mind five days later and excluded the grandchildren. The grandchildren challenged the will and eventually settled for a small amount to be shared among them. The protagonist granddaughter decried that she wished her grandmother had conversed with her about the will and that she wished her grandmother had left her wishes in a letter.
1. Wills may be challenged on the grounds of undue influence (“Mom, leave it to us, our dead brother’s kids are never around”) and lack of mental capacity (i.e. dementia). Both grounds seem to be present in this case. It seems that they could have fought longer for their father’s share.
2. When one’s parent dies and one wishes to inherit the deceased parent’s share of a grandmother’s estate, constant contact, e-mails, visits, thinking of you cards, and holiday gatherings are time well spent.
3. Contrary to the granddaughter’s naive wishes, clients never tell someone they are are being disinherited much less express those wishes in a writing. The will serves as that written document. The woman, Kate, was smart to not use her last name lest she and her naivete be subject to ridicule by those who met her.
- Thursday, 26 June 2014 06:30
Sting was in the news this week due to his announcement that he does not intend to leave his $300 million fortune to his six children at his death. He believes that a trust fund would be an albatross around their necks.
1. I think leaving money to charities instead of the six people in the world he loves the most is over-reactive. A trust can be structured to provide incentives to his children to work and be productive while providing safety net for them.
2. Most people would be willing to suffer through that albatross.
3. $300 million is impressive for a man who has produced only unmemorable, monotone dirges in the 30 years since breaking up the Police.
- Tuesday, 24 June 2014 09:47
Taking another break from newsworthy estate issues, the NYT reported about the beginning of a funeral trend primarily in New Orleans where the deceased is not in a coffin but is posed as if alive. A 53 year old woman was recently posed at a table holding her cigarette with a can of Busch beer in front of her. In April, a socialite was posed sitting on a bench on a downtown theater greeting guests.
1. Although the Big Easy boasts of putting the fun in funeral, spectacles are not always fun but can be morbid.
2. I suspect that the beer and cigarette depicted might have contributed to the woman’s death at 53.
3. I know they were going for authenticity, but the woman was posed with a Busch beer instead of a nice microbrew as her final beer?
- Saturday, 14 June 2014 08:21
The bizarre and emotional battle over the medical care of Casey Kasem is nearing an end. An LA County judge has authorized his daughter to have doctors withdraw his feeding tubes. The ruling follows Kasem’s wishes as expressed in his 2007 living will. The ruling also adheres to his health care power of attorney which gave his daughter authority over his medical decisions (and not his wife). Jean Kasem, an actress known for playing dumb blonde roles, maintains that the daughter is sentencing him to death because she wants his money.
1. Usually a living will and health care power of attorney will avoid this acrimonious situation.
2. It is too bad that the public has had to view the reason Kasem trusted his daughter with his medical decisions and not his wife.
3. Like Kasem, I would not want someone who throws meat at others when angry in charge of my medical decisions.
- Tuesday, 10 June 2014 21:05
Taking a break from newsworthy death related issues, I found this interesting piece on causes of death by state. If you do not want to read it, I will tell you that the most likely cause of death for Ohioans is heart disease, that we are disproportionately affected by diabetes, and that we have a higher than average rate of deaths from cancer, respiratory and kidney diseases, strokes, and Alzheimer’s.
1. Ohio is a cauldron of death. It is not for estate tax reasons that people move to Florida.
2. Bonus points for knowing the meaning of Septicemia (disproportionately represented in Texas and other Southern states).
3. Casey Kasem is doomed. His family should not have moved him to Washington which is disproportionately represented by deaths from Alzheimer’s disease.