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Sir Jeff

While we wait for the impending China crackdown in Hong Kong, the Jeffrey Epstein death remains the other big news topic. Epstein was not married nor did he have any alleged children. It is not known if he left a will or other estate planning documents.

Epstein was survived by his younger brother, Mark, who has two children. Epstein owned houses in NYC, Palm Beach, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. His net worth is reported to be $500 million although no one knows for certain nor the source of the wealth.

A few brief points:

1. Epstein supposedly made his money by assisting his clients with the minutiae of tax planning and other life details so it is hard to believe he did not leave a will and trust.

2. It is way too early to know his actual net worth and what claims will be brought against his estate.

3. For the sake of his heirs, they should hope that he was legally a resident of Florida or the U.S. Virgin Islands, neither of which has an estate tax, rather than New York which would tax his estate at a rate of 16%.

4. These complex estate issues will likely be determined sooner than the circumstances surrounding his death.

5. There might be some truth to the line “the person most surprised by the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein was Jeffrey Epstein.”

Photo Credit:  Unknown (from slideshow from linked article)

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Chain of Fools

When Aretha Franklin died last week after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, she allegedly did not leave a will. She is survived by her four sons, one of whom has special needs, who will receive equal shares of her estate. Her niece asked to be appointed as representative of her $80 million estate. Aretha’s copyright attorney told reporters that when there is no will, “there will always end up being a fight.”

Some points of relevant interest:

1. No one wins a long battle with pancreatic cancer. See Jobs, Steve.  Prepare a will.

2. When a woman dies without a will, there should not be much to dispute because there are no illegitimate children to contest heirship.

3. The niece’s fee for serving as personal rep. could be $1.6 million.  One of the sons should have dibs on this role.

4. Surprisingly, Madonna did not ask to be appointed as personal representative.  

Photo Credit:  Jae C. Hong/AP

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Don’t Be Like John B. (Estate Planning Lessons From “S-Town”)

 “S-Town” is the critically acclaimed successor podcast to “Serial.”  The anti-hero, John B, lives in a Faulkner-esque house on 128 acres in Woodstock, Alabama with his octogenarian mother who suffers from dementia.  He is a genius horologist (clock repairman), builder of a “Shining” type maze on his property, hypocrite about tattoos, and so obsessed with climate change and other problems that he makes Thomas Malthus seem optimistic.

John B. was thought to be worth a large amount of money by residents of Woodstock.  During the podcast he mentions that he wants to leave $20,000 to his friend, Tyler.  He also tells Tyler (spoiler alert) on the night that he commits suicide that Tyler can have his property.  Sadly, John B. died without writing a will or without having a plan for someone to take care of his mother.  Mystifyingly, John B. claims to have been unbanked which led Tyler and others to search his property for locations where he could have buried gold and cash.  He did leave instructions with a friend about what to do and whom to contact after his death.

Several points:

1.  If one has to choose between leaving a will or instructions about what to do after death, one should choose a will.

2.  Embrace the power of “AND”.  One should be able to leave a will AND instructions about what to do after death.

3.  Without a will, John B’s assets if found legally will go to his mother.  Without a health care power of attorney, the care of his mother will go to a relative willing to serve as guardian.

4.  Being unbanked might make sense for someone of little financial means.  For someone who might have made hundreds of thousands dollars annually and is prone to suicidal threats, being unbanked can only lead to one’s property looking like a scene from “Holes.”      

 
Photo Copyright:  James Breeden for Daily Mail (?)
License:  Fair Use/Education

There Is Gold in the Walls! Part 2

Following up on an earlier post. A woman will officially inherit her reclusive first cousin’s $7.4 million estate after a court ruled that she is his only heir. After the man died, the estate auctioneer found $7.4 million of gold coins in his house.

Several points:

1. When someone dies without a will, the estate does not escheat to the state. Statutes set forth how the estate will be distributed which is generally along the lines of closest living relative.

2. Only one first cousin? That is a narrow family tree.

3. Gold was a great investment for him (actually for his cousin). Apple stock would have been better.

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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.