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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

 

Bye Bye Love

It was recently reported that Ric Ocasek, lead singer of The Cars, left his estranged wife, Paulina Porizkova, out of his will which he executed several weeks before his death. The former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model left her much older husband a year before she found him dead in his townhouse when bringing him coffee while he was recovering from surgery. Specifically, Ocasek’s will provided that he did not want Porizkova to inherit even the elective share because she had abandoned him. Ocasek’s probate estate consists of $5 million of royalties and $100K of personal property.

Several points:

1. Odds are that Ocasek’s estate consists of more than $5 million because he likely had financial assets and real estate titled in a trust prior to his death.

2. Even if omitted from a will, spouses may elect to receive a portion of the estate which is usually 1/3.

3. In Ohio, spouses may only elect against the assets passing through probate. In NY, spouses may elect to take 1/3 of all assets, including those in a trust and others passing outside probate.

4. You might think I am cynical, but I find it odd that a woman who left her husband uses the Instagram hashtag #loveneverdies.

Photo Credit:  Tammie Arroyo/AFF-USA.COM / MEGA

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Taken to the Bath

Finally, there is some estate planning news to write about. Gloria Cary was an American woman who was the second wife of the eccentric eighth Earl of Bathurst. When the Earl died in 2011, he left his home and surrounding real estate, valued at $17 million, to his son, and the rest of his estate to his widow.

Typically, his widow and son did not get along even though the couple had been married for more than 30 years. After the Earl’s death, the widow was forced to vacate the family home inherited by the son. She sued for permission to visit the home to view the family’s collection of heirlooms, but she was denied by her step-son.

When Gloria died last year, she left the bulk of her $41 million fortune to two interior designers while omitting her step-son entirely.

A few quick observations:

1. At least the son inherited a significant amount upon the death of his father and was not disinherited entirely.

2. Inheriting an English estate is a double edged sword because the maintenance costs can be stratospheric.

3. If the Earl of Bathurst (“Barmy Bathurst”) wanted to ensure his son received some of his fortune, he should have created a trust to benefit his wife with the remainder going to his son. Although a trust might have been a step too far for an eccentric.

4. Of course, if the son wanted to inherit more than the house, he should have acquiesced to his step-mom’s request to occasionally visit and wander around the property.

Photo credit:  compendium of pics from Daily Mail

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Pedophile Will

So my blog prognostication abilities continue to be abysmal. In addition to the coroner determining that Jeffrey Epstein hung himself, he actually prepared a will two days before he died.

Epstein’s will left everything to a trust he created the same day as his will. Of course, the trust beneficiaries and its terms are private. His will designates two long time employees as co-executors of his estate and provided that they would each receive $250K for serving in that capacity. Meanwhile, an attorney for one of the women suing Epstein claims that he was an evil genius for filing the estate in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Several quick points:

1. Epstein’s estate is being probated in the US Virgin Islands because that is where he was considered a resident. Estates are probated in the decedent’s state of domicile.

2. The NY Post’s expert who said the will was filed in the Virgin Islands due to privacy reasons and the attorney suing Epstein on behalf of his alleged victims who thinks the US Virgin Islands filings are pure evil are fools and need to brush up on probate law.

3. It is interesting that the executors have agreed to fill that role for $250K. The commissions for executors are set by statute. Typically, they would receive a percentage of the estate which would be at least 1% or $5.7 million in this matter.

4. The reporting by the NY Post and the NYT has been error filled on this matter. I expect shoddy reporting from them on matters involving President Trump and from the Cincinnati Enquirer, but not from the NYT on a story like this.

Photo Credit:  NY Post  Composite

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

 

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)

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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.