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Pirate (and Scoundrel) By Any Other Name

There has been a dearth of newsworthy estate planning news recently, save the step-kids hate step-mom variety, so the Hugh Culverhouse Jr. and Alabama Law School imbroglio sent me down a rabbit hole which I am prone to.  For reference sake, Culverhouse, Jr. pledged $26 million last year to the University of Alabama Law School if they named it in his honor.  The law school returned the entire sum last week after Culverhouse, Jr. encouraged a boycott of the state of Alabama due to its recent anti-abortion legislation.  We are not here to discuss that.

Culverhouse, Jr. is the son of the first owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  He, his sister, and his mother were estranged from his father at the time of his father’s death in 1994.   Culverhouse, Sr. was notorious for operating his NFL team to maximize the profits while not caring how they fared on the field, which was usually abysmally.  Prior to his death, he told his wife that he was on the verge of bankruptcy and convinced her to sign a post-nuptial agreement which promised her $5 million, a $2 million condo, and her jewelry worth $2 million. After his death, the Bucs were sold for a then record $192 million while Culverhouse’s estate was estimated to be worth $340 million.   His widow filed multiple lawsuits regarding the post-nuptial agreement and the administration of his estate. She eventually settled for $34 million plus the right to control the donation of $10 million to various charities. 

Whew.  So much to unpack, but let’s be brief.

1.  Post-nuptial agreements are not valid in Ohio because Ohio prohibits spouses from contracting with each other.  Ohio’s position is a minority one

2.  Even with the settlement, Mrs. Culverhouse sold herself short settling for a fraction of her husband’s net worth.

3.  Sadly for Bengals fans, Mike Brown adopted the Culverhouse play book of ineptly running a football franchise but maximizing profit. 

 

Photo credit:  St. Petersburg Times

License:  Fair Use/Education

Sister Is Doing It For Herself

When Aretha Franklin died last August, she was reported to have died without a will.  The administration of her estate proceeded accordingly.  This week her lawyer of 40 years said that her family had found three handwritten wills, two from 2010 and one from 2014, in her house.  The 2010 wills were in a locked cabinet while the 2014 will was in a spiral notebook under a couch cushion.  The wills look like gibberish at first glance.  A court will determine their validity in June.

Several points:

1.  Michigan law provides that wills should be signed in the presence of two witnesses (same as Ohio).

2.  Michigan allows for holographic (i.e. handwritten) wills if it is certain the writing is intended to be the person’s will and it is dated. 

3.  Writing in a spiral notebook under a couch cushion rarely looks to be the final thoughts regarding the disposition of one’s assets even if dated.

4.  If someone has millions of dollars and millions more in expected music royalties, she should pay a lawyer to prepare a properly drafted will and trust and let the attorney keep it so there is no posthumous doubt about her wishes.  Get it right.

 

Photo Credit:  Mary Altaffer for AP

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

 

The Longshot

Comedian Tim Conway died today. He started his career on “McHale’s Navy” and was best known for his role on “The Carol Burnett Show.” During the last year of his life, his daughter from his first marriage squabbled with his second wife of 35 years over his medical care. The daughter sought to be appointed conservator (i.e. guardian) of him even though Conway had executed a health care power of attorney designating his wife as his health care decision maker. The daughter’s petition was denied and eventually the wife was designated as the conservator. The daughter said she would continue to be an advocate for children seeking visitation denied by a step-parent.

Several somewhat redundant points:

1. Because Conway had executed a financial power of attorney and health care power of attorney in favor of his wife, a conservatorship was unnecessary because those documents determined his wishes.

2. It is bananas that animosity between a child and step-mother does not subside after 35 years of marriage.

3. The daughter’s declaration of victory and promise of advocacy after having no legal basis for her position and then being thwarted by the court is Trumpian.

Photo Credit:  Fox News video

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Stinky Cheese Man

Eugene Brown died at the age of 93 in Corning ,California. His body was discovered after the mail carrier reported that he was not sitting outside waiting for her for five consecutive days. He was survived by three nephews and a niece, but was in contact with none of them.
 
He owned a house purchased in the 1970’s, a car purchased in the 1980’s with only 74,000 miles on it, and $2.7 million. He did not have a bed and only had two slices of wrapped cheese singles in his fridge at the time of his death. Besides the mailman, the only person who he spoke with regularly was his investment manager. Because he did not have a will, his nephews and niece inherited his estate even though some of them had not seen him in 50 years and some thought he had died years ago.
 
Several repetitive points:
 
1. Without a will, state law determines who inherits an estate. The result is the closest living relative(s).
 
2. 56% of Americans do not have a will.
 
3. Mr. Brown did not have any friends, but was a somewhat devout Catholic. He could have left his estate to any number of Catholic organizations.
 
4. Rather than saving his money so that his distant relatives could inherit it, Mr. Brown would have been better off spending at least some of the money on a bed, a more modern vehicle, unprocessed cheese, and attorney fees to prepare a will.
 
Photo Credit:  Tehama County Public Guardian
License:  Fair Use/Education (in linked article)

Don’t Do Me Like That

When Tom Petty died of a drug overdose 18 months ago, he was survived by his second wife, Dana York, and his two daughters from his first marriage, Adria and Annakim. Petty created a trust to administer and distribute his assets. He named his widow as the trustee. He also directed that his music rights and royalties be transferred to a company to be managed equally by his widow and daughters.

His wife believes “equally” means a 50/50 split of management while the daughters contend that “equally” means they each get a vote for 2/3 control. The eldest daughter has opposed a 25th anniversary release of Petty’s last good album, Wildflowers, and has flamed various members of his band and the City of Gainesville. His widow has petitioned the LA probate court to appoint a day to day manager of the estate and requested that Adria act respectably.

Several quick points:

1. No matter how much planning a person does, there is no guarantee that his heirs will behave after his death.

2. Second marriages are always ripe for irrational emotional reactions after a death.

3. The estate planning attorney likely wishes he had defined “equally” in the trust.

4. A bank trustee can sometimes diffuse some of a beneficiary’s distrust, but not always. And usually not with someone as ill tempered as Adria.

5. In the streaming music era, the expected windfall from the re-release of Wildflowers is illusory. No one under 50 buys CDs.

Photo Credit:  NY Post? – vidcap

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

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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.