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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

 

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)

Not Misty’s Foal

 
At the risk of becoming CNN and MSNBC and reporting all President Trump all of the time, Stormy Daniels released a memoir last week titled “Full Disclosure. ” I could not care less about her relationship with President Trump 12 years ago, but I am interested in her describing her recording her “last will.” After the Wall Street Journal reported the existence of her non-disclosure agreement with President Trump, Daniels received threats which caused her to describe on video her insurance policy and her wishes with respect to the distribution of her assets.
 
A few points:
 
1. Most wills must be written and witnessed.
 
2. Oral wills are not recognized in most states.
 
3. Ohio only recognizes oral wills made upon one’s deathbed and written down within 10 days.
 
4. Sad that an attorney who wants to become President represents a woman who cannot properly prepare a will.
 
Photo Credit:  St. Martin’s
License:  Fair Use/Education (cover of book discussed) 

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto

The New York Times just published 15,000 words about the estate and gift tax strategies President Trump’s father, Fred Trump, used to transfer his billion dollar real estate empire to his children more than 20 years ago. NYT reporters accessed public records and had others provide them confidential documents such as estate and gift tax returns. The point of the NYT piece is to disprove President Trump’s claim that he is a self-made man by claiming he received $413 million from his dad. They do not note that represents only 1/7 of his current net worth as reported today by Forbes.

A few points:

1. Even though the NYT used the terms “tax dodger,” “sham,” “dubious schemes,” and “improper,” to describe Fred Trump’s planning, the actual planning strategies he used were legitimate.

2. Fred Trump utilized valuation discounts and special trusts called GRATs to greatly reduce the gift and estate taxes owed on the transfer of his assets to his children.

3. Any impropriety on the transfers is due to the appraisal values for the real estate which seemed low in light of later sales.

4. Try as the NYT might to implicate President Trump in any impropriety, any wrong doing belongs to the person making gifts, i.e. Fred Trump, not the person receiving the gifts.

5. Am I the only one to notice that only confidential tax returns of Republicans are leaked to the press?

Photo Credit:  Trump Campaign via New York Times

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

It Is Always About Trump Even When It Is Not

Phyllis Schlafly was a noted conservative icon known primarily for opposing the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution in the 1970’s.  She died last September at the at age of 92 survived by her six children.  Her daughter, Anne, is contesting the last revision to her will which provided that any legal challenges to the will are to be paid out of the share of the person bringing them. Her brothers claim that Anne’s legal challenges have already cost $1 million in legal fees.  
 
Three brief points:
 
1.  A standard no contest clause in a will usually provides that if someone contests the will, he  will lose his entire inheritance.  This is why it is advisable to leave more than $1 to a disinherited heir.
 
2.  This disputed clause seems to be more lenient than the typical no contest clause and definitely does not seem worth challenging.
 
3.  Only in the world of our Trump obsessed media, would Schlafly’s support of President Trump garner the headline and two paragraphs in this article that has nothing to do with the President. 
 
Photo Copyright:  David R. Usher/Facebook
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.