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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Your Money Is Ours

dem-2016-clintonHillary Clinton announced an updated estate tax proposal today. After previously supporting an increase in the estate tax rate from 40% to 45% and decreasing the amount of tax free assets to $3.5 million, she now wants to tax estates exceeding $10 million at 50%, estates exceeding $50 million at 55%, and estates exceeding $500 million at 65%. She also wants to remove the stepped up basis provision for estates so appreciated assets would also be subject to capital gains tax at death.

Two quick points without being too political because the proposal speaks for itself:

1. Apparently Hillary believes the Senator Warren adage that “you did not build this” so we are going to tax it mantra.
 
2. No word from her billionaire buddies Soros, Zuckerberg, Gates, and Buffet on how they feel about the government possibly taking 65% of their wealth and, frankly, I don’t give a damn about them.
 

Old Adult Fiction

new hampshire A former University of New Hampshire librarian who lived frugally, left his entire $4 million estate to the university. The UNH promptly fulfilled his mostly unrestricted bequest by allocating $100K to the library where he worked (some might say toiled) for 50 years, $1 million for a video scoreboard for the football stadium, and $2.5 million for the career center to presumably assist students with worthless majors like women’s studies, anthropology, and fine arts find jobs other than as baristas.

Several points only marginally associated with estate planning: 

  1. By leaving his entire estate to charity, the former librarian will not incur state or federal estate tax. 
  2. Even though he spent the last year of his life in an assisted living facility watching (and finally learning about) football, I highly doubt that he would approve of UNH spending $1 million in his name on a video scoreboard for their minor league football team (avg attendance 6,000 last year). I doubt the absence of a video scoreboard is keeping people away. 
  3. Although assisting students with job placement after they selected useless majors is a questionable use of one’s savings, it is no less worthy than leaving money to a library in the 21st Century when most functions of a library are available on on-line (except for providing a physical warm or cool space for the homeless during the Winter or Summer).

TML Again

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I wrote Paul Daugherty’s The Morning Line blog again yesterday. I covered UC’s Big 12 candidacy, Notre Dame’s quarterback situation, and myriad other topics including Bruce Springsteen’s forthcoming autobiography. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Meanest Man Begets Mean Daughter

sam huffSam Huff is an NFL Hall of Fame linebacker who played for the NY Giants and Washington Redskins. He was known as the Meanest Man in the NFL during the 1960’s. He is long divorced,has lived with Carol Holden for nearly 30 years, and now suffers from dementia. His daughter picked him up one morning in late March to take him to a dentist appointment and has not returned him to his home. Some might call this kidnapping. The daughter then took him to an attorney to have herself appointed as his health care decision maker (she was already his financial decision maker) and her mother, Huff’s ex–wife, as the alternate. She also asked a court to appoint her as his guardian.
 
Several points:
 
1. The prior structure of Huff’s health care and financial powers of attorneys was what I usually recommend in a second marriage situation – the spouse/partner can make the medical decisions but the child can make the financial decisions.
 
2. The validity of Huff’s new health care power of attorney is certainly questionable given his dementia diagnosis which is further evidenced by him naming his elderly, ex-wife as his alternate decision maker.
 
3. I am always disappointed at the vitriol that children have towards the second spouse/partner of their parents no matter how long they have been together.
 
4. It is no surprise that the Meanest Man in the NFL would would have an incredibly mean daughter.

What Happens In Vegas, Stays in Vegas?

kirkorianLas Vegas billionaire Kirk Kirkorian died last June a the age of 98. His $2 billion estate has been subject to litigation since his death. A young woman who claimed to be his daughter, but was proven long ago to be the child of the notorious lothario Steve Bing, recently settled her challenge to Kirkorian’s will. Non-paternity notwithstanding, Kirkorian paid $50,000 per month in child support to Kira Bonder until she was 10. As part of her mother’s divorce settlement with Kirkorian after their 30 day marriage, Bonder was supposed to receive $7 million in trust upon Kirkorian’s death. Nonetheless, she challenged that provision and settled for $8.5 million.
 
Several obvious points:
 
1. As the daughter of another man, Kira Bonder was not entitled to any of Kirkorian’s estate so challenging a bequest seems to be without legal merit.
 
2. For Bonder’s sake, I hope that the attorney who handled the will contest charged her based on time spent or on contingency for the increase from $7 million. It would not be fair to her to have to pay him a percentage of the $7 million she was promised and provided.
 
3. The first dollar Bonder receives from Kirkorkian will likely be more than she ever receives from her biological father who also contentiously fathered a child with Elizabeth Hurley.
 
4. What happens in Vegas is not necessarily applicable to the rest of the U.S.

This Never Works, So Why Try – Redux

penn22n-1-web

 

A Penn State professor was allegedly murdered last week by the woman to whom he offered shelter and her friend. The professor was allegedly pushed off a cliff because he had recently revised his will and they thought they would benefit from his death. The woman was also miffed because he had criticized the parenting of her child. One of the reasons cited by the police in their arrest of the couple was they were “known drug users.”

 One legal point and two “I can’t believe this” points”:

1. Most states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, have “slayer statutes” which preclude murderers from benefiting from the will of someone they murdered.

 2. It is incredibly presumptuous of the woman and her friend to assume that they were named as beneficiaries of the professor’s new will.

 3. If “known drug user” is a marker for a criminal, then half of the adult population of Colorado are suspects for crimes there.

Two Words, George. Pre-Nup.

amber heard
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard settled their divorce case this week for $7 million which Heard has pledged to charity. She had reportedly been seeking spousal support and half of his net worth as a result of their 15 month marriage. During the proceedings, Heard alleged that Depp had abused her. The couple did not have a pre-nuptial agreement.
 
Several brief points:
 
1. Depp should have insisted on a pre-nuptial agreement which could have provided that he owed Heard nothing in the event of a divorce.
 
2. The absence of a pre-nup does not entitle Heard to half of Depp’s net worth, but only to what he earned during their 15 month marriage.
 
3. Anyone making bets on the length of a marriage between a hard partying heterosexual male and a declared bi-sexual woman 20 years younger than him should always take the under.
 
4. I have long told Janice that her crush on Depp was misplaced. I might finally be vindicated for that opinion.

Purple Reign?

prince son
The Santa Monica Observer, a weekly newspaper, is reporting that a DNA test shows that a Washington man in his 30’s is the illegitimate son of Prince. The man’s mother reportedly played in the same clubs as Prince in the 1980’s. He and his mother are reportedly estranged due to her contacting him after Prince’s death by a Facebook message imploring him to call her by saying “Prince might be your, father call me.”
 
Several pithy points:
 
1. If the story is true, the man would be Prince’s closest living relative and in position to inherit his entire estate.
 
2. However, if the man had been adopted by another man, his right to inherit from Prince would be closed off because Prince would not be considered his father.
 
3. Odd that this story is reported only by the Santa Monica equivalent of City Beat which is known for concert listings, hating all Republicans and the local and state government, and for classified ads of men seeking men and women seeking women.
 
4. Perhaps the national media is too busy asking about Hillary’s missing e-mails, her health, and her refusal to hold a press conference in 2016 to bother themselves with updating the search for Prince’s heirs

Two Halves Do Not Make a Whole?

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Stepping away from celebrities for a minute and focusing on estate laws, yesterday the IRS issued proposed regulations to minimize valuation discounts in estate planning. In a nutshell, the regulations prohibit taxpayers from dividing property between family members and then claiming their proportionate shares are not worth the exact proportion because that small proportion does not have control of the property. Wonky? Yes.

 
Three small points:
1. These regulations have been bandied about for 25 years.
2. From a practice viewpoint, I have never completely bought into the idea of valuation discounts for marketable securities transferred to an LLC or partnership solely for the purpose of obtaining a reduced value for estate tax purposes.
3. Nonetheless, this issue seems to be one for Congress to address through legislation rather than one more edict from a lame duck (re: imperial) administration to issue in its waning days.
 

Simon Says This Is Not a Gift

simonMel Simon owned the Indiana Pacers with his brother, Herb, for 16 years. After the Malice in the Palace in 2004, the Pacers started losing money and Simon became disenchanted with his ownership of the team. He sold his interest to his brother in a very quiet deal that was two years in the making. The terms included being released from various personal guarantees. Simon died shortly thereafter of pancreatic cancer. The IRS determined that the deal was so favorable to his brother that his estate owes a gift tax of $21 million. His widow has sued the IRS for a refund of the gift tax paid.

Several quick points:

1. An individual may give away $5.45 million during his life before he has to start paying gift tax.

2. The gift tax rate is 40%.

3. The donor is the person responsible for paying the gift tax.

4. This deal between brothers sounds complicated. It is doubtful that one brother would intentionally give the other $83 million.

5. The widow can afford the tax bill – Simon’s estate was valued at $2 billion because of his pioneering development of shopping malls. 

6. Ironic that Simon’s loss of interest in basketball ownership is tied to the Malice in the Palace. Ron Artest – the gift that keeps on giving.

 

Back At It

jack soccer gameIn addition to a dearth of worthy estate planning news, it has been a busy and awesome two weeks. Two concerts, a soccer game in Columbus, business trip to Cleveland, and usual bike rides. With all of that, Jack’s smile is the highlight of the past two weeks. Post to follow.

 

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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.