BlogRead the Latest News

 

Tiger King Is Everywhere (Including Here)

“Tiger King” is the exploitative Netflix series that even has the DC press corps asking questions about pardons to President Trump. One of the plot lines is the disappearance of Don Lewis and Joe Exotic’s (and Lewis’ daughters’) allegations that Lewis’ wife, Carole Baskin, killed Lewis and fed him to their lions in 1997.

For those not watching the show, Lewis and his much younger wife operated a large cat sanctuary in Florida. Lewis had a limited education (he filed legal docs with “enough” spelled “enouf”) but had made decent money in scrap metals and better money buying real estate subject to unpaid property taxes.

Lewis disappeared in 1997 without a trace. He had purchased a plane ticket to Costa Rica where he owned property and where he allegedly went to have daily sex while his wife was menstruating (gosh, I know this is tawdry, but she blogged about it). His car was found at a small airport 40 miles from his home. His passport was not swiped in Costa Rica nor the U.S.

Lewis left a power of attorney prepared by his wife in late 1996 that said that she could control his finances in the event of his disability or “disappearance.” Although I have not seen his will, it allegedly referred to “his kidnapping or disappearance.” His wife reportedly inherited $4 million and Lewis’ daughters from his first marriage received $1 million from a trust when he was declared dead in 2002. His daughters allege that the will and powers of attorney were forged. They also have accused Carole of killing him. Due to the publicity generated by the series, the sheriff in Hillsborough County has re-opened the investigation into the disappearance of Lewis.

So many thoughts, but let’s keep them to a minimum which is difficult to do over 7 episodes and countless blog posts and Internet stories:

1. The power of attorney is available on-line. It is professionally prepared with no typos with full justification of the margins even though prepared by Carole. It is possible she downloaded the template from Nolo, but highly unlikely that it included “disappearance” relating to its effectiveness.

2. In 33 years of preparing powers of attorney, I have never conditioned their effectiveness on “disappearance.”

3. A will that refers to “kidnapping or disappearance” does not make sense because wills only become effective upon death.

4. The power of attorney and will allegedly had the same witnesses, one of whom later said she did not actually witness the signing.

5. Although Lewis’ daughters alleged “forgery’, they likely meant that their father was unaware of the specifics of the documents he signed.

6. Lewis’ assistant, Ann McQueen, has alleged that she had the original power of attorney and will in her possession but Carole removed them from her office after his disappearance. When I suspect that documents might be contentious if they disappear, I offer to retain the originals.

7. Wow, there is a bunch of smoke here, including the refusal of Carole to take a polygraph test and allow an inspection of her property, but I have no snarky observation. A slander suit from these litigious folks is not worth it. 

Photo Credit:  Netflix

License:  Fair Use/Education

 

COPY

Robert Indiana, the artist known for the iconic pop art image, LOVE, died in May at the age of 89. Mr. Indiana had moved to an island off the coast of Maine in 1978 where he continued to generate highly derivative images of his most famous piece, including HOPE for President Obama’s 2008 campaign.
For the last five years of his life, Mr. Indiana paid a caretaker $250K annually to assist him. He also gave the caretaker power of attorney. The caretaker withdrew over $600K from Mr. Indiana’s bank accounts supposedly at his direction.

The estate is supposed to turn Mr. Indiana’s dilapidated house into a museum to display his works. The estate is now embroiled in litigation over the withdrawn cash and whether Mr. Indiana was actually producing new art at the time of his death.

A few points:

1. Situations involving wealthy elderly individuals with no close family are always difficult because there is so much potential for financial exploitation.

2. Sometimes the caretaker is the best person to serve as attorney in fact if there are no relatives and the individual has outlived all of his friends.

3. Still, $600K of withdrawals for an individual living on an island off the coast of Maine with no place to spend the money seems excessive.

4. The last thing our country needs is another remotely situated vanity based museum dedicated to an artist of modest reknown.

5. AC/DC apparently copied Mr. Indiana’s playbook of recycling/copying prior work to earn great wealth.

Photo Credit:  Johnsonville Sausage 

License: Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

The Nest

The Nest hc cGosh, times are slow in the newsworthy estates and trusts area, except for the conga line of people claiming to be heirs of Prince. Reluctantly resorting to fiction for material, “The Nest” by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney is on many best books of summer lists. It has several estate planning lessons which can be gleaned from the following plot facts (all of which are in the first 40 pages so hopefully I not spoiling anything for anyone who wants to read the book).

A father created a trust for his four children. The trust was to be distributed when the youngest child reached the age of 40. His wife had the power to invade the trust in the event the children needed the funds earlier. One of the children had a power of attorney from his husband which allowed him to mortgage their vacation property without the husband knowing about the mortgage (trust me, I got the pronouns correct). Another child had a legal predicament which resulted in his mother lending him the entire proceeds of the trust to bail him out and hoping that he would re-pay the amount (called “the nest” by his siblings).

Points to be learned:

1. One should never give a power of attorney to a non-aged spouse unless it is contingent on disability. The potential for abuse is too great otherwise.

2. This trust should have divided into separate shares either at the conception or when the children were in their early 20s. Each child could have then borrowed from his or her share only, if necessary, rather than from the entire trust.

3. The wife/mother of the children should not have had the power to distribute all of the funds without being held to a prudent investor standard.

4. Of course, if there had been good estate planning there would not have been a novel, nor would I have a blog.

Going for a Touchdown When a Field Goal Would Have Sufficed

Jim Carlen was one of the winningest football coaches at the University of South Carolina.  His children from his first marriage, which ended in 1980, are suing his 2nd wife of 29 years alleging that she influenced him to leave all of his estate to her. 
His 2007 will and all prior wills had included the children from his first marriage.  The 2010 will, executed one year after he was diagnosed with dementia, left everything to his widow.  In 2011, he executed a power of attorney in favor his wife which she purportedly used to transfer assets to herself prior to his death 
Several points:
1.  A will executed by an individual diagnosed with dementia that substantially changes his estate plan will always be challenged by the beneficiaries of the prior will.
2.  The coach could have provided for both his widow and children by leaving assets to her in a trust and having them distributed to the children upon her death.
3.  Proving that pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered, the widow would have been better off ensuring that the children received something rather than seeing them disinherited entirely.
4.  45 wins constitutes the third most wins at South Carolina?  That might explain the one conference championship it its history.        

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.