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The Morning Line – March Madness

I subbed for Paul Daugherty’s The Morning Blog again yesterday in the Cincinnati Enquirer. I covered a bit of March Madness, the firing of Indiana’s Tom Crean, and the Bengals free agency moves (or lack thereof). I hope you enjoy it.

War and Peace

Audrey Hepburn died in 1993. She left her personal belongings, including costumes, scarves, hats, scripts, awards, and other memorabilia, equally to her two sons. They in turn loaned the memorabilia to a charity to display. After one of the sons ran into financial difficulties, he asked for the return of the property. He and his brother were unable to agree on how to divide the property so they went to court. They just settled their dispute last week.

Several brief points:

1. Most disputes about estate administration that I see are about the personal belongings and not the money. Oddly. And sadly.

2. In Ohio, people can easily specify which child or beneficiary is to receive a particular item by leaving a written document as a will companion so stating.

3. In Hepburn’s case, I feel sorry for anyone fighting over 25+ year old scarves and hats even if they once belonged to a famous person.

Photo Copyright:  Paramount/REX/Shutterstock

License:  Fair Use/Education                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 

Modern Love

Lawyers handling the estate of David Bowie have set a date of May 4 for anyone claiming to be a child of Bowie’s or a creditor of his estate to file a claim. The “child” part is important because the allegedly once bi-sexual Bowie left 1/4 of his estate to each of his two acknowledged children and half to his wife. The issue is that Bowie claimed to have been “incredibly promiscuous” during the 70’s and 80’s. His romances are alleged to have included Mick Jagger’s former girlfriend (Marianne Faithfull), Mick’s ex-wife (Bianca), Mick himself, Susan Sarandon, Charlie Chaplin’s widow (Oona O’Neill), and Slash’s mom. And your childhood best friend’s mom. Or dad.
Several brief points:
 
1. Under Ohio law (and Bowie would be the last person to claim residence in Ohio), creditors have six months from the date of death to file a claim against the estate for money owed by the decedent.
 
2. Illegitimate children generally can only claim from their dad’s estate if they were acknowledged by the decedent or if the child proves paternity after the death of the decedent.
 
3. In drafting estate documents for the Thin White Duke, it would have been best to specifically name the children rather than use the term “my child” which opens the door for illegitimate children to inherit.
 
4. The good part of May-December romances (i.e. Oona O’Neill) or bi-sexual couplings (yeah, we are looking at you, Mick), is that paternity is not a concern.
 
5. Bowie definitely knew about the power of charm, but he never let love walk on by.
Photo Copyright:  ZZ/NY/RY/REX/Shutterstock
License:  Fair Use/Education

Treasure Hunt

The State of Ohio is holding an auction this Friday and Saturday to sell the contents of abandoned safe deposit boxes to make room for additional items in the Unclaimed Funds department.  The items include Kruggerands, silver bars, coins, and currency. This is the first auction of this type since 1998.  The state has had some of the items in its possession since 1968.

A few brief points:

1.  Some of the abandoned boxes belonged to decedents.  I always advise my clients to notify their executors of the location of any safe deposit boxes to prevent them being lost.

2.  The State of Ohio currently has $2.3 billion in unclaimed funds it is holding for their rightful owners.  Those funds can be claimed by completing a form on the Ohio Department of Commerce website.

3.  Almost 50 years since the state found some of these items?  The wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly.

 

Photo Credit:  Joshua A. Bickel/Columbus Dispatch
License:  Fair Use/Education

 

Don’t Do It His Way

When Frank Sinatra, Jr. died last March, he was embroiled in divorce litigation with his ex-wife, Cynthia.  When they divorced in 2001, he was ordered to pay her $5,000 per month for a year.  Sinatra continued to voluntarily make those payments for an additional 10 years until he was financially unable to do so.  Rather than show gratitude, his ex-wife filed for a second divorce claiming that they were in a common law marriage in Texas because he continued to refer to her as his wife both on stage and privately.  

Sinatra actually lived in California, paid California income taxes while he could have avoided taxes if he were a Texas resident (Texas does not have an income tax), and filed federal gift tax returns for the payment to his ex (transfers to spouses are not subject to gift taxes).  Nonetheless, a Texas court ruled that they were married and awarded her $500,000, half of his $4.5 million house, and $5,000/month for another year.  Sinatra died during the appeal which was ultimately decided posthumously in his favor.

So many possible points, but let’s stay with a few.

1.   Only 15 states recognize common law marriages.  Ohio is not one of them.

2.  To have a common law marriage, couples must agree that they are married, tell others that they are married, and live together in the state which recognizes common law marriages.

3.  If Sinatra was filing income tax returns as a California resident and filing federal gift tax returns for the payments to Cynthia, he did not consider her his wife.

4.  Being a gentleman got Sinatra nowhere – he was trying to be considerate of Cynthia by not referring to her as his “former wife.”  If he had to do it again, I suspect he would introduce her as “my EX-wife, hear that?  My EX-wife.”

 

Photo Credit:  Michael Ochs Archives
License:  Fair Use/Education

Back In Town

Apologies for the sporadic posting. There is not much happening in the world of celebrity wills and trusts, plus I was out of town for six days on the annual guys ski trip. Pic below, post to follow.

It’s A Life Estate, Dahling

When Zsa Zsa Gabor died prior to Christmas, it was announced that her 9th husband had 90 days to vacate the Bel Air house she had owned since 1973. She had tried to sell the house several years ago, but finally accepted a lower offer in 2013 on the condition that she be allowed to reside there for the rest of her life. Now that she has died, her residency has terminated and her widower must move. The buyer will allegedly tear down the house.

A few minor points:

1. This arrangement is known as a life estate. Given her paralysis and amputations, I doubt the buyer thought she would live 3 more years.

2. Hugh Hefner allegedly has a similar arrangement for the famed Playboy Mansion.

3. Crazy times we live in when an $11 million property is a tear down. 

Bad Mom

Ken Thompson was the Brooklyn District Attorney who died of cancer in October.  Two weeks prior to his death, he allegedly changed his will to omit any bequest to his mother and instead left his estate in trust for his wife and 2 young children.  

His mother is contesting the will alleging that he did not know what he was doing due to his illness.  As support for her theory, she argues that Thompson was unhappy with his marriage because of the amount of money his wife was spending.

Three quick points:

1.  It is anything but unusual for a man with young children to leave his entire estate to his wife and children.  Providing for a mother is what would be unusual.  

2.  The creation of trusts to assist his wife with financial management of the inheritance shows mental clarity not lack of mental capacity.

3.   If Thompson was unhappy with his wife’s spending, he is in the majority of husbands.

The Force Pays Off

star wars

The Walt Disney Company is reportedly set to receive $50 million due to the death of Carrier Fisher. Disney owns Star Wars and had taken out an insurance policy on Fisher in the event she was unable to complete the new three film trilogy. Filming had wrapped on Episode VIII but Episode IX, due in 2019, will need a script re-write.

Several minor points:

1. The insurance on Fisher is a form of “key man” insurance which many companies purchase on the lives of their valuable employees to protect the company in the event of the death of the employee.

2. $50 million seems excessive given the limited role that Fisher played in The Force Awakens.

3. The insurance carrier is likely wishing that it had rather insured the life of Harrison Ford, whose Han Solo died during Episode VII, and who will not appear in any more episodes.

 

 

Photo Copyright:  REX/Walt Disney/Shutterstock/Robot
License:  Fair Use/Educational Purposes

Happy New Year

florida

Apparently I am only in the seasons’ greetings business. Celebrity estate planning blogging to pick up soon. Best wishes for the new year.

Merry Christmas

christmas cardFrom my family to yours.  We are thankful for your friendship.

The Morning Line

docs blog thridI subbed for Paul Daugherty’s The Morning Line Blog again on Friday. I compiled a Christmas Wish List for local sports teams and wished three lumps of coal for the University of Louisville. I hope you enjoy it.

Once a Deceiver

divorce1-superJumbo-v2

Illustration from New York Times License: Fair Use for Education Purposes

Robert Oesterland and Sarah Pursglove made an enormous fortune in various business such as promising people credit cards, forming membership style clubs for various items such as DVDs, and selling web browser toolbars promising to remove computer viruses. When Pursglove started divorce proceedings, Oesterland swore in court that he was only worth several million dollars. Although Pursglove was unaware of their financial details, she knew they had several assets alone worth more than that, including a $30 million Toronto penthouse and a yacht that cost several million dollars annually to operate. When Pursglove started investigating their finances, she discovered they were difficult to determine because of the opacity provided by the use of myriad LLCs and trusts in tax haven destinations. The divorce is still on-going.

Several points:

1. Wealthy individuals use off-shore trusts to protect their wealth from creditors as an advanced form of asset protection planning.

2. Wealthy individuals also use off-shore trusts to hide their assets from taxation in an illegal form of tax avoidance.

3. It is no surprise that a man who made money by signing people up for memberships that continually charged their credit cards, promised credit cards to people but only gave them a list of credit card companies, and sold browser toolbars with no benefits would deceive his wife in divorce proceedings.

When Plans Work Out

jack turkey day

The photo is from the front page of today’s Cincinnati Enquirer. Jack, in yellow, and his St. X teammates wanted to run all out for 400 yards in the Turkey Day Race so they could be in the lead and “make the paper.” Somehow, that plan came to fruition. I love the smiles and the gap to the pack.

 

His Prerogative

nick gordon A Bobbi Kristina Brown update. An Atlanta judge ruled two weeks ago that Nick Gordon, the boyfriend of Bobbi Kristina Brown, is liable for $36 million in damagesto her estate and to her father, Bobby Brown, for allegedly causing her death by providing her the drugs in her body at the time of her death and for assaulting her. The judge determined the amount of damages after Gordon stopped appearing in the case a year ago and the estate was awarded a default judgment (because Gordon stopped participating in the case) in September.

Only two points:

1. Gordon does not have the funds to pay the judgment and will likely declare bankruptcy to avoid paying them.

2. There is no word on when Bobby Brown will be held liable for providing drugs to, and ruining the career of, Whitney Houston.

A Singing Will

deathbed
Taking a break from celebrity and other newsworthy estate planning items, I ran across an interesting article in the NYT this weekend. The writer discussed having an end of life playlist to listen to on one’s deathbed. He mentioned how Benedictine monks always chanted, perhaps for a week, around a dying monk, and how music has long provided comfort to others dying. He then discussed songs on his playlist.
 
A couple of quick thoughts:
 
1. Of course this does not work for people dying a sudden, unexpected death.
 
2. As your tastes change, you would have to revise your list lest you be stuck listening to “Funky Town” while dying.
 
3. One could skip the playlist idea and simply play Sufjan Steven’s “Carrie and Lowell” and “Casmir Pulaski Day” on repeat.
 
4. Thankfully this idea was not idea was not around when I was younger or I would have had Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason” on my list although the lyric “save my life going down for the last time” would be tastelessly appropriate.

TML – Tommy Tuberville Should Go Edition

tuberville

I subbed for Paul Daugherty’s The Morning Line blog in the Cincinnati Enquirer again this morning. I am critical of UC’s Tommy Tuberville and listed some possible replacements. I hope you like it.

Between a Rock and Hard Place

greenwich village new

Bill Cornwell lived in a Greenwich Village brownstone with his same sex partner for 50 years. When he died two years ago, his will left the building and all of his possessions to his partner. However, the will was only witnessed by one individual while NY law requires two witnesses. Without a valid will, his estate will pass to his closest living relatives who are his nieces and nephews who recently sold the building for $7 million. The partner has since filed suit trying to prove that he and Mr. Cornwell were actually married, although they were not, so he can be considered the closest heir.

So many points and such short attention spans:

1. All wills require two witnesses not related to the individual and who will not receive any assets under the will.

2. Using a DIY will kit could lead to problems with properly executing wills (among other issues)

3. The legal arguments made by the partner verge on stupid. One of them is that even though they lived in NY, which does not recognize common law marriage, they bought a dog in Pennsylvania in 1991 as a symbol of their commitment to each other and because Pennsylvania used to recognize common law marriage they should be considered as married.

4. The 85 year old partner would be better off dropping the law suit and accepting the offer of the nieces and nephews to live in the apartment for 5 years at a monthly rental of $10 and receive $250,000 upon the sale of the building.

5. The entire problem could have been avoided if they had simply married each other once gay marriage became legal.

6. One niece claimed, apparently with a straight face, that her uncle did not want his partner to inherit or he would have properly executed the will. She also suggested that perhaps the men were just friends or great companions. The address of the rock under which she lives is unknown.

Unmarried Without Children

shoe salesman

 

In lieu of much newsworthy, I will resort to the evergreen story of the seemingly penniless senior citizen who left a large bequest to a charity in his will. Ken Millen was born in Aberdeen, WA, attended Grays Harbor College there, worked as shoe salesman until the store went out of business in the ’80s, and always lived in the house in which he was born. He inherited some funds 20 years ago from a brother who was an attorney in the South. When Millen died last year, he left some crappy personal property, including his 1979 car, to his neighbors who treated him like a family member. He left the remaining $1 million to his alma mater. The neighbors ended up hauling most of the personal belongings to the dump because they were worthless.

A few non-legal points:

1. As heart warming as these stories are portrayed, they are actually somewhat bothersome in that an individual who was treated decently and warmly by neighbors for years eschews leaving them any funds in lieu of giving it to an institution he attended 65 years ago but likely did not have much present contact with.

2. Estate planning attorneys need to do a better job with clients without living relatives to guide them to leaving some meaningful assets to important individuals in their lives rather than faceless institutions.

3. Mercifully Grays Harbor College does not have a football team so the bequest cannot be wasted on an unnecessary scoreboard.

4. To quote Aberdeen’s most famous resident: “I found it hard, it’s hard to find, Oh well, whatever, never mind.”

Pet Cemetery

pets AP_110119093570

NY recently passed legislation permitting people to be buried with the remains of their pets. Only four states permit humans and pets to be buried together. Ohio law is silent on this matter although some cemeteries bury both humans and pets in separate sections. There is no word on whether Jennifer Lopez intends to be buried with Casper Smart.

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.