BlogRead the Latest News

 

Class of 2014

Congratulations to my daughter, Blair, who graduated from the The Seven Hills School last night.  She will become an Indiana Hoosier in August.

2014 blair graduation with mom and dad

 

 

 

Unfashionable Probate

Fashion designer Oleg Cassini became famous for designing Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hats.  He was also known for marrying actress Gene Tierney, dating Grace Kelly, and dressing Marilyn Monroe.  He died in 2006 survived by a daughter from his marriage to Gene Tierney and by his secret wife of 35 years, Marianne Nestor, who most assumed was his employee.  His will left $1 million to his daughter and the balance of his $52 million estate to his widow.  His daughter was unaware of his marriage to Ms. Nestor until after his death.   His daughter successfully contested the will on the grounds that Cassini’s 1952 divorce decree from Tierney promised his daughter 25% of his estate.  Because his widow has not yet paid the sum to her, has spent estate funds without court authorization, and did not have insurance on a $30 million house that burned, the probate court has removed the widow as executrix of the estate.

Several points:

1.  Apparently a provision in a 50+ year old divorce decree where the other party is divorced trumps a will.

2.  When there is a secret marriage and the wife is only 5 years older than a daughter, I advise naming a neutral third party as executor for efficient execution of the will.

3.  When a secret marriage exists, it is doubly damaging for the child to find out about it from a hospital nurse the day her father died.

4.  In the fashion world, I doubt Yves St. Laurent, Christian Dior, and Gianni Versace had estate disputes between their wives and children.  Nor will Karl Lagerfeld.

 

cassini tumblr_miqr8dw33t1r5xsw9o1_500

“Let It Go”

One of India’s wealthiest Hindu spiritual leaders died in January from a presumed heart attack.  His followers placed his body in a guarded, commercial freezer on their Ashram and maintain that he has drifted to a deeper form of meditation as a pathway to self realization.  His family has asked an Indian court to order the release of the body for cremation.  The family maintains that the followers are claiming he is alive so they can retain control of his $170 million estate.

Two quick points:

1.  $170 million is nice coin for a religious leader and even more so in a country with per capita income of  $1,200.

2.  The guru’s disciples might have solved the riddle of eternal life – simply freeze all dead bodies while waiting for them to return to life.  Commercial freezer manufacturers will be overjoyed, at least during this life.

meditation_2924694b

Tragic Kingdom

Walt Disney’s youngest daughter died in 1993 survived by her 3 children.  She left her fortune in trust for them with a provision that they would receive their inheritance in $20+ million installments at the ages of 35, 40, and 45 if they showed “maturity and the financial ability” to manage the money.  Her son, Brad,is embroiled in litigation with the trustees over their refusal to give him his installment on his 40th birthday even though they gave installments to his older sister who was allegedly addicted to heroin and died a year after receiving her first installment and to his twin sister who had suffered a brain aneurysm and never held a job.  Brad does receive $1 million annually but his step-mother allegedly wants him to receive the large distribution so the funds will be available to her children.  The attorney who drafted the trust said the provision about maturity was his mother’s way to never give Brad control of the funds but to still treat him the same as her daughters.

Several points:

1.   When children have different needs and abilities, parents should treat them differently in their trusts to protect the children.

2.  The trust should have had a no substance abuse clause which would have allowed the trustees to pay for treatment for the oldest daughter and not give her funds to pay for a lifestyle that led to her death.

3.  Any similarity between the step-mother and Maleficent is purely coincidental.

 

walt-disney-world

Huguette Clark = Howard Hughes?

As part of her $300 million fortune, Huguette Clark owned Bellosguardo, a 23 acre estate on the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara valued at $85 million.  She inherited it in 1963 upon the death of mother but never visited it because she did not want to diminish her memory of her mother there.  In a matter mirroring that of Howard Hughes’ Mormon Will, a pro se Santa Barbara woman filed a lawsuit against the estate claiming that after an hour conversation in 1985, Ms. Clark gave her the mansion by writing “Cabrillo Mansion yours” on a piece of paper.    A court dismissed the lawsuit because the statute of limitations had expired in 1989.

Several points:

1.  To convey property, a deed must contain the grantor’s name, the grantee’s name, a description of the property, and must be appropriately witnessed and/or notarized.  Real estate cannot be conveyed via the equivalent of a bearer bond.

2.  It is heartening to see that no attorney wanted to touch this obviously fraudulent case.

3.  Perhaps if the note had also provided that the Church of Latter Day Saints would also receive Bellosguardo, she would at least have been able to sell the movie rights to “Lori and Huguette.”

huguette clark

 

Powered by Gantry Framework

image

Collaboratively administrate empowered markets via plug-and-play networks. Dynamically procrastinate B2C users after installed base benefits. Dramatically visualize customer directed convergence without revolutionary ROI.

Efficiently unleash cross-media information without cross-media value. Quickly maximize timely deliverables for real-time schemas. Dramatically maintain clicks-and-mortar solutions without functional solutions.

CSS Dropdown Menu and Split Menu

image

Collaboratively administrate empowered markets via plug-and-play networks. Dynamically procrastinate B2C users after installed base benefits. Dramatically visualize customer directed convergence without revolutionary ROI.

Efficiently unleash cross-media information without cross-media value. Quickly maximize timely deliverables for real-time schemas. Dramatically maintain clicks-and-mortar solutions without functional solutions.

Complete Set of Font Awesome Icons

image

Collaboratively administrate empowered markets via plug-and-play networks. Dynamically procrastinate B2C users after installed base benefits. Dramatically visualize customer directed convergence without revolutionary ROI.

Efficiently unleash cross-media information without cross-media value. Quickly maximize timely deliverables for real-time schemas. Dramatically maintain clicks-and-mortar solutions without functional solutions.

Grid Based Responsive Layout

image

Collaboratively administrate empowered markets via plug-and-play networks. Dynamically procrastinate B2C users after installed base benefits. Dramatically visualize customer directed convergence without revolutionary ROI.

Efficiently unleash cross-media information without cross-media value. Quickly maximize timely deliverables for real-time schemas. Dramatically maintain clicks-and-mortar solutions without functional solutions.

Integrated RokAjaxSearch Styling

Collaboratively administrate empowered markets via plug-and-play networks. Dynamically procrastinate B2C users after installed base benefits. Dramatically visualize customer directed convergence without revolutionary ROI.

Efficiently unleash cross-media information without cross-media value. Quickly maximize timely deliverables for real-time schemas. Dramatically maintain clicks-and-mortar solutions without functional solutions.

Integrated RokSprocket Styling

Collaboratively administrate empowered markets via plug-and-play networks. Dynamically procrastinate B2C users after installed base benefits. Dramatically visualize customer directed convergence without revolutionary ROI.

Efficiently unleash cross-media information without cross-media value. Quickly maximize timely deliverables for real-time schemas. Dramatically maintain clicks-and-mortar solutions without functional solutions.

Configurable Preset Styles

Collaboratively administrate empowered markets via plug-and-play networks. Dynamically procrastinate B2C users after installed base benefits. Dramatically visualize customer directed convergence without revolutionary ROI.

Efficiently unleash cross-media information without cross-media value. Quickly maximize timely deliverables for real-time schemas. Dramatically maintain clicks-and-mortar solutions without functional solutions.

Dynamic Control of Page Layouts

Collaboratively administrate empowered markets via plug-and-play networks. Dynamically procrastinate B2C users after installed base benefits. Dramatically visualize customer directed convergence without revolutionary ROI.

Efficiently unleash cross-media information without cross-media value. Quickly maximize timely deliverables for real-time schemas. Dramatically maintain clicks-and-mortar solutions without functional solutions.

Semper Fi

A former Marine signed onto Facebook last week and announced he was going to take his own life.  He documented the process with graphic photos including a final post that said “Im leakinging good now.”   While he lay dying in an unoccupied building, his Marine Corps. buddies were frantically trying to locate him and plead with him to not kill himself.  After his death, Facebook did not remove the graphic photos of his final moments because “they did not violate the terms of community service.”  Eventually, Facebook temporarily removed the account pending a ruling from his family.  In a nutshell, if a person dies, the options for his Facebook account are to memorialize the account or for the family to remove it.  Meanwhile, the former Marines used Facebook to reach out to their comrades who might be struggling and offered to drop everything they were doing to assist one another.

Several points:

1.  People should address their digital assets in their wills and give their executor the authority to dispose of or transfer the digital assets.

2.  One can always count on Facebook to do the wrong thing.

3.  The brotherhood of the Marines is awesome beyond description.

 

facebook logo

Halitosis, Ponzi Schemers, and Politicians.

Rachel “Bunny” Mellon was the heir to the Listerine fortune and also the widow of philanthropist, Paul Mellon, who in turn was the only son of industrialist and Secretary of Treasury, Andrew Mellon.  Although she tried to remain out of the public eye, Mrs. Mellon gained some notoriety during the 2008 election for contributing to John Edwards’ campaign to help him support Rielle Hunter and her baby fathered by Edwards.  Her 37 page will and 9 codicils comprising another 40 pages were recently admitted to probate in Virginia.  The will addressed a multitude of personal items, created life interests in various real properties for different individuals, gave $20 million to her 75 year old son, and made many charitable bequests.

Several points:

1.  An estate of this magnitude is generally suited for the privacy offered by a funded trust.  This is doubly so when the individual does not like publicity.

2.  An estate of this magnitude can also be well served by having the entire estate pass through the probate process so any potential will contest must be brought quickly (within 4 months of probate starting in Ohio) and creditors’ claims filed against the estate (six months from the date of death in Ohio).

3.  She was smart to change her will as circumstances changed for her, including the death of her daughter and the conviction of her initial co-executor for operating a Ponzi scheme.

4.  Unsurprisingly, she did not leave any funds to John Edwards for haircuts, child support, or otherwise.

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2011/07/25/article-0-0D2858AF00000578-635_468x590.jpg

 

DIY Wills – Pay Me Now or Pay Me Later

A Florida woman saved money on will preparation by using a DIY service titled E-Z Legal Form.  Her will left all of her listed property to her brother.  The will did not have a residuary clause which states who receives all non-listed assets.   Inevitably, she later opened a new account that was not addressed by the will.  She left a handwritten note in which she tried to  to bequeath the account and all of her “worldly possessions” to her brother except for several accounts she wanted to leave to his daughter.  The note was only witnessed by her brother’s  daughter.  Other nieces claimed that they were entitled to a share of the unlisted account because it was not addressed in the will.  The Florida Supreme Court ruled that they were entitled to a share of the unaddressed account under Florida intestacy laws.

Several points:

1.  All wills need a residuary clause to provide who inherits assets not specifically listed.  In fact, in every will I draft the residuary clause is the most important section.

2.  The decedent would have been better served simply by skipping the listing of specific assets and merely having a residuary clause leaving all of her assets to her brother.

3.  A handwritten note with only one witness who is also a potential beneficiary is invalid on its face and is a worse idea than using a poorly drafted form found on the Internet or purchased at Staples.

4.  As the weary mechanic in the Fram oil filter commercials said after performing an expensive engine repair instead of simply replacing an oil filter, “Pay me now or pay me later.”   This decedent would have been better served spending some money on an attorney ($600 is my standard will and power of attorney fee) instead of trying to save a few dollars while incurring thousands of dollars in legal fees in a futile attempt to have her wishes followed.   Plus, I am much more fun to work with than following, perhaps incorrectly, a few prompts in a software program.

 

alligator-walking

 

 

 

 

 

The Morning Line Again

Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer has once again graciously allowed me to guest write his The Morning Line blog.  I hope you enjoy it.

photo

Even Rappers’ Estates Need to Pay Their Debts

I have previously blogged about rapper Nate Dogg and the financial issues surrounding his estate.  He died in 2011 without a will but with 6 children of unascertainable ages and different mothers and unpaid child support and medical bills of $290K.  His primary asset was a house with $200K of equity.  The administrator of his estate has a contract to sell the house for $340,000 but his children are opposing the sale because it will not leave them enough money.

Several points:

1.  A decedent’s debts must be paid before estate beneficiaries receive any proceeds of the estate. It is unfortunate for his children that there will likely be no assets left for them after the payment of debts, but an administrator cannot magically make a house worth more than the market is willing to pay nor make the debts less.

2.  If Mr. Dogg had wanted to provide for his children and not worry about his debts, he could have purchased a life insurance policy to benefit them.

3.  His house was worth $340K?  I doubt it was featured on MTV’s “Cribs.”

Nate Dogg

 

Last Will and Embezzlement

Diminutive actor Mickey Rooney died this week at age 93. In recent years, he was in the news for his allegations of elder abuse against his step-son and step-daughter-in-law and for his Congressional testimony about the abuse. Last Fall, he symbolically settled the case against his step-son and his step-daughter-in-law for a $2.8 million judgment that will not be paid by them. He re-wrote his will last month to exclude his wife of 35 years, from whom he had separated a year ago after allegations of physical abuse, and his 11 natural children. He left his entire $18,000 estate to his other step-son who has been his care giver for the past 3 years.

Several points:

1. Elder abuse is more common than realized. Although it is rare when a spouse of 36 years is somewhat complicit in the abuse, mothers will go to great lengths to “protect” and enable their children’s bad habits.

2. Under Ohio law, his estranged wife would receive the entire $18,000 despite what the will states because a spouse is entitled to at least the first $20,000 of assets.

3. Eight wives? Someone should have told him he did not need to marry every woman he dated.

 

 

Shooting an Airball

Lorenzen Wright played in the NBA for 13 years and earned $55 million.  Shortly after his retirement, he was the victim of an unsolved murder in a suspected drug deal.  He was survived by his ex-wife, Sherra Wright,  and their 6 children.  After his death, his ex-wife received $1 million in insurance proceeds in trust for the children.  Within 10 months of receiving the proceeds, she was accused of having spent nearly all of them on housing, furniture, cars, and travel.  She is now subject to probate court action to remove her as trustee.

Several points:

1.  It is never a good idea to have a former spouse serve as trustee for the children.  A financially savvy third party is a much better choice.  Newly divorced individuals should quickly revise their wills and trusts to remove the former spouse and to keep him/her away from assets for the children.

2.  In some defense of Sherra Wright, purchasing real estate with trust assets is not spending them, it is re-allocating the type of investment.

3.  I suspect that Mr. Wright is not the only former NBA player to have significant career earnings and to die with less than 2% of them remaining.  Annual child support and alimony payments of $330,000 tend to rapidly diminish one’s net worth.

 

 

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.