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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)

#MeToo (#SheWasFirst)

William Agee was a boy wonder corporate exec in the late 70’s and early 80’s when he helmed Bendix Corporation. Mary Cunningham was a Harvard MBA grad voted most likely to be CEO of a non-cosmetics company. She spurned job offers on Wall Street to work for Bendix as Agee’s personal assistant before being promoted to Vice President. They eventually divorced their spouses and married each other while ignoring rumors that Cunningham had “slept her way to the top.”

After Agee’s several failed business deals reportedly undertaken under Cunningham’s advice, Cunningham became known as the Yoko Ono of finance. They settled in Napa Valley where Cunningham acquired the moniker of “Tomato Lady” for growing special tomatoes.

Six weeks before he died, Agee, reportedly suffering from dementia, changed his will to leave half his assets to his children from whom he had been estranged for 35 years. He also filed for divorce from Cunningham and named his daughter as his health care power of attorney. His last communication with his wife was via Face Time from Seattle. Cunningham is challenging the will although it does not matter because most of his assets were in his trust which was unchanged before his death.

A few points:

1. A will change six weeks before death to benefit children who have been estranged for 35 years will always generate questions of competency..

2. If Agee changed his will prior to his death, he should have also changed his trust if his assets were titled in the name of the trust.

3. Yoko Ono of finance? Tomato Lady? Music fans could only wish that Yoko Ono had grown tomatoes instead of creating unlistenable music and breaking up the Beatles.

Photo Credit:  Mary Moritz for the New York Times

License:  Fair Use/Education

King of Cruelty

When unfunny comedian, Jerry Lewis, died last month, he was survived by 5 sons from his first marriage, his second wife (SanDee, a former Vegas dancer 25 years younger than him), and a daughter from his second marriage.

His 2012 will left his entire estate to his wife and daughter. He purposefully excluded his six sons (including his son who died of a heroin overdose in 2009) and their descendants. Lewis’ sons had long accused him of treating them cruelly with the deceased son claiming that he had beaten them viciously. When that son died in 2009, Lewis refused to pay for his funeral. Lewis is reportedly only worth several million dollars, but the value of his estate is in the movie rights he owns to his movies.

Several minor points:

1. Lewis was not obligated to leave anything to his sons.

2. It was smart of him to specifically exclude the descendants of the deceased son so someone cannot try to claim part of the estate by alleging to be an illegitimate grandchild.

3. I would have taken the under on an allegedly cruel man remaining married to a Vegas dancer with two capital letters in her name for 35 years.

Photo Credit:  WireImage

License:  Fair Use/Education

Not All Step-Mothers Are Evil

 
A British farmer died and left his second wife of nine years the sum of $155,000.  He left each of his sons from a prior marriage the sum of $81,000.  The sons contested the will by arguing that their father, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease for 20 years,  was incompetent when he made the will.  The argued that his prior will which left his wife the sum of $125,000 was his real will.  After years of litigation, and $250,000 of legal fees, the court ruled that his last will was valid and that all of the legal fees for the will contest were to be paid by the sons, not the estate.   In his ruling, the judge stated the sons were unreasonable and frivolous for fighting over such a small amount which was motivated by their dislike of their mother.   
 
Several non-pithy points:
 
1.  The sons were simply expressing their disdain for their dad’s second wife by fighting over such a small amount and likely hoping to force their step-mother to spend her entire inheritance on legal fees.  Bleed her dry, if you will.
 
2.  Unlike the U.S. where each party is responsible for his own legal fees, the British system allows the loser to pay the legal fees of all parties.
 
3.  Editorializing a bit here, I have never understood the visceral dislike or animosity towards second spouses.  From a child’s point of view, I embraced my mom’s second husband because he was able to provide her companionship, someone to travel and dine with, a social life, and mental stimulation.  He was also able to assist her with her medical needs, whether they were doctor appointments or recovering from surgeries or illnesses (the same applies times two for the woman my father in law has dated for five years – she is an angel).  I never viewed him as a replacement for my father, but simply as a good man in the next chapter of my mom’s life.  Sadly, I do not think enough children view their parent’s second spouse in a similar manner.  These British guys were twits in not appreciating the woman who took care of their ailing father to the best of her abilities. 
 
Photo Copyright:  Paul Keogh
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.