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Prepare a Will, Not a Letter

I confess to never having heard of Latin music and Mexican TV personality Jenni Rivera prior to her death in a plane crash in December.  I similarly confess to never having heard of her estranged 3rd husband, Esteban Loaiza, who plays for the Detroit Tigers.  So why am I blogging about them?

Rivera and Loaiza separated two months prior to her death.  After separating, River left a detailed letter to her sister asking her to take care of her children and business enterprise valued at $25 million in the event of her death.  It is unknown if she had other estate planning documents or a pre-nuptial agreement.

What lessons can be learned from her estate?

1.  When marrying for a 3rd time, one should definitely have a pre-nuptial agreement.  If Dennis Hopper can do this, others should, too.

2.  When leaving on a trip, consult an estate planning attorney about preparing a will/revised a will.  A handwritten note is generally not effective.

3.  When separated from a spouse, revise the estate plan immediately and implement a trust to preserve the assets for the children.

4.  $25 million net worth?  Apparently there is money to be made on Mexican TV and Latin radio for tumultuous personalities.

Where Are They Now? Collecting an Inheritance.

An Illinois man who lived alone in a farmhouse with no running water, bathed in a creek, and did not bathe when it was frozen, died last summer of a heart attack.  His will left his estate to two actors he had never met – Kevin Brophy and Peter Barton.  Brophy’s biggest role was as a man who had been raised by wolves in “Lucan” while Barton  had been on the “Young and Restless.”  Apparently the deceased had written the actors in the past and they had responded with a thank you and watch me in my upcoming appearance note.  The deceased considered them friends.

Several points:

1.  Simple acts of kindness and respect reap dividends.

2.  For will purposes, there is a difference between eccentric and mentally incompetent.

3.  I am not sure that either Brophy or Barton would qualify for an episode of VH1’s “Where Are They Now?”

4. Lucan?  I vaguely remember it from my youth.  I certainly did not have a poster from it for years as did the decedent.  This was the poster in my teenage room.

 

 

Talking Loud and Saying Nothing

James Brown died in 2006.  His estate moved a step closer to settlement this week after  a federal lawsuit filed by his former business partner was dismissed.  After years of litigation, the estate was to be divided between his wife, his heirs, and his “I Feel Good Trust.”

However, his former pr woman and song writer claimed to have worked with him on the child welfare trust in the 1980s and that his intent was to leave all of his assets to it.  She claimed that the South Carolina attorney general had ignored her, that 100 attorneys had refused to take her case because they were politically intimidated, and that she has a right to be heard and to exert control over the distribution of funds.

Several points:

1.  The court was correct to dismiss the case.

2.  How a probate related case which is handled at the state level lasted 16 months in a federal court is perplexing.

3.  An estate plan can easily change multiple times over 20 years so what James Brown wanted in 1980 could differ greatly from what he wanted in 2006.

4.  It is advisable to ensure that estate planning documents reflect current wishes.

5.  Sorry, sweetheart, but no one has “a right to be heard”  nor do they have the right to exert control over funds unless they are the trustee.   You were simply channeling one of James Brown’s hits.

 

 

 

 

Planning For Pets

Leona Helmsley created the most famous pet trust of all time when she left $12 million to her dog (which died earlier this month).   One does not have to be a multi-millionaire to leave funds for the care of an animal after death.  However, one should be careful in selecting the right person to care for the animal – the caregiver should not be motivated solely by money.

In one instance, a maid and butler were provided free room and board as long as they cared for a cat.   The vet initially estimated the cat to be 8 years old.  The second time the vet saw the cat, he thought it was 4 years old. The third time he saw it, he estimated the cat to be one year old.  As the co-resident of a house with a cat resembling the Purina Cat Chow cat, I can attest to the physical similarity of most cats.  A more tightly drawn test pet trust wold have prohibited the maid and butler from replacing the decedent’s cat with younger versions.

With the $5.25 million unified credit negating estate tax planning for most individuals, the use of pet trusts in estate planning is one more example of estate planning going to the dogs (and cats).

Getting One’s Act Together

In the making lemonade out of lemons department is this story about a woman whose 43 year old husband died after his bicycle was hit by a motorist.  The couple had unsigned wills, no emergency savings, financial accounts with passwords the wife did not know, but some life insurance.  The widow created a web site to encourage others to avoid her financial calumny and to essentially take steps to become a responsible adult by executing a will and other financial documents and by assisting with passwords and other financial knowledge.

When prioritizing allocation of financial resources to major decisions, I recommend the following:

1.  Life insurance.  Provide financial security for the spouse and children.

2. Living will and health care power of attorney.  Do not bankrupt the family because medical decisions can not be made.

3.  Will.  Clarify distributions and designate a guardian.

Somewhat related, the article did nothing to dispel my fear of riding my bike on the road rather than a bike trail.

 

 

 

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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.