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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

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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

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.

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

tml

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.

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.