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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)

Trouble Don’t Set Up Like Rain

Marcelle Harrison’s mother and step-father, both of whom were Barbadian immigrants, purchased a house in Boston in 1970 for $23K. Her mom died in 2009. Her step-father died without a will two years later.
 
Now, Harrison and her multi-generation family are being forced to leave the $1 million home because they are not the legal owners. Because her step-father died without a will, his closest living relatives, nieces and nephews who live in Barbados, will inherit his estate. A state representative who lives across the street said “It shocks the conscience to think that this low-income, Barbadian family could be displaced, really out of the blue.”
 
A few points, some of which I have made before:
 
1. The legal outcome is correct – under the statute of intestate succession, which applies when there is no will, Harrison has no claim on her step-father’s estate no matter how long he was married to her mother.
 
2. Thoughtful estate planning is important for everyone, but even more so for second marriages and blended families.
 
3. The local politician might find this outcome shocking, but I am not shocked that a Massachusetts politician would use identity politics to describe the problem while being ignorant of the law.
 
Photo Credit:  Jessica Rinaldi/Boston Globe
License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Don’t Go Crazy

 

 
In a story unreported, and for good reason, by almost every major news outlet, a woman filed a claim with Prince’s estate claiming to be his daughter. She was adopted in 1975 and has no knowledge of her birth parents, but thinks she might be The Purple One’s daughter because she “possess(es) substantial physical, temperamental and aspirational similarities to Prince” and she is “very artsy and . . . has been described as flamboyant, natural-born star and performer made for the stage.” The woman submitted a photo of herself with purple hair and purple lipstick as proof of her physical resemblance to Prince. The estate is rejecting the claim because it was filed the day after the deadline for making such a claim.
A few points:
1. Prince would have been 16 years old and 1,000 miles from his Minneapolis home at the time the woman was conceived.
2. Even if the woman is Prince’s daughter, she has no rights to his estate because adopted children sever all ties with their biological parents and lose their right to inherit from them. They are entitled to inherit from their adoptive parents.
3. If purple hair and lipstick are enough to allege paternity, Kelly Osbourne should have filed a claim against Prince’s estate.
 
Photo Credit:  TheBlast.com (linked in linked article)
License:  Fair Use/Education

He Would Die 4 U

It has been two years since Prince died of fentanyl poisoning. Because he did not leave a will instructing how to administer his estate (remember he thought was going to live until he was 1999), a bank has been appointed as executor of his estate while his siblings and half siblings will be the beneficiaries.
Several points:
1. If Prince wanted to control his legacy he should have executed a will. Even people with no sense of mortality need to provide for their demise.
2. It is easy for friends who have no financial stake in Prince’s estate to complain about the revenues being generated by not respecting his legacy.
3. Justin Timberlake needed all the help possible for his Super Bowl performance.
4. Pains me to say this as a huge Prince fan, but Nothing Compares 2 Sinead’s version of the song.
 
 
Photo Credit:  Michael S. Williamson/Washington Post
License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Gambling On Intestacy

Famous and infamous people are dying every day – Hugh Hefner, Malcolm Young, Charles Manson – but there is nothing newsworthy in their estates. Digging somewhat deep, it has been reported that notorious Las Vegas mass murderer, Stephen Paddock, did not leave a will to dispose of his reported $5 million estate. A Clark County, Nevada court had a hearing last week to determine who should administer his estate. Paddock’s 89 year old mother has declined to serve as administrator. It is likely that the Clark County Public Administrator, an elected official, will fulfill the responsibilities. The court will eventually determine who is to receive the estate proceeds.

Several points:

1. The complexities of dealing with the issues in this case are certainly above the ability of an 89 year old woman.

2. As meticulous as Paddock seemed, it might appear surprising that he did not have a will. However, maybe that is one more facet he thought through – he did not want to burden a familu member with the task of administering his estate.

3. With respect to who will eventually receive his estate, I am betting on the lawyers.

Photo Credit:   AP/Eric Paddock

License:  Fair Use/Education

 

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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.