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Tasered and Confused

A local story has a probate court angle. The City of Cincinnati has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by an 11 year old shoplifter who was tasered after running from an off duty police officer. The young girl, who had been caught and warned previously for stealing from the same store, had $53 of stolen merchandise on her. She will receive $220,000 from the city and $20,000 from Kroger for the indignity of being tasered.

Several points and one prediction:

1. Because the girl is a minor, the settlement will be subject to probate court supervision until she turns 18.

2. Funds may only be spent with the approval of the probate court and then only for her mental health to overcome the trauma of being tasered.

3. She will have unrestricted access to the funds when she turns 18.

4. Call it more than a hunch that the number of shoplifting incidents at Kroger without repercussions will increase dramatically.

Photo Credit:  Albert Cesare/Cincinnati Enquirer

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Give It Up or Turnit Loose

James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, died in 2006. His estate is still unsettled due to myriad lawsuits. He had intended to leave $2 million for scholarships for his grandchildren, memorabilia to his children, and the rest to a charity for scholarships for children from SC and Georgia.

Lawsuits have involved whether a woman should have been trustee, whether people should have been removed as trustee, the paternity of a son, and the validity of Brown’s marriage (his wife reportedly was married at the time of their marriage) plus the run of the mill will contest suits. The most recent suit involves whether his wife could sell the rights to his songs.

Two points:

1. There are no good lessons here. If heirs want to fight, they will find reasons to fight and no planning can prevent that.

2. I always preferred the music of Brown’s contemporaries, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, both who died tragically young. One benefit of dying young is that there is no large estate to fight over nor large family to fight.

 

Photo Credit:  Michael Holahan/Augusta Chronicle, via Associated Press and linked NYT article
License:  Fair Use/Education

Vegemite Redux?

Vegemite Redux?

In the intersection of two common themes here (Australian probate craziness and the danger of DIY wills), a terminally ill Australian woman filled in a DIY will while (whilst?) at the hospital. The will was only four pages long, but had multiple pages of attachments addressing her wishes from who would receive her house (apparently multiple charities depending on her thoughts at the moment) to who would receive her step ladder, cow bell, and scrapbook items. The Australian court admitted the will to probate, but the future interpretation and litigation will incur tens of thousands dollars in legal fees for her estate.

A few low hanging points:

1. The cost of attorney fees for preparing a will properly is minor compared to the costs of fixing a will that was not prepared properly.

2. The larger intangible cost for this woman is that her assets might not be distributed to her preferred charities/individuals and under the terms she truly wanted.

3. Call me unsentimental, but I doubt anyone cares about the step ladder, cow bell, and scrapbook stuff.

Photo Credit:  Zicasso Travel Website/unknown

License:  Fair Use/Education

Following the Eclipse Herd

Would you have either of these guys draft your will? I ran into Chuck Meyer (Santen and Hughes) during the eclipse at the Banks.

 

Gronk Would Not Do This

 
Aaron Hernandez is the former New England Patriot who committed suicide last month while imprisoned for murdering a friend.  He had only recently been acquitted of the murder of two other individuals and was still appealing his prior murder conviction.  Since his suicide, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has vacated his murder conviction because his appeals were still in process.  Within hours after his arrest in 2013, the Patriots terminated his contract and did not pay the remaining guaranteed money owed to him.  
 
In his suicide note addressed to his fiancé, Hernandez wrote “you’re rich.” Many reporters have interpreted that to mean that he was thinking not only of what money he still owned but also that she would collect $6 million owed to him by the Patriots under his last contract.  Some think that the Patriots would be on the hook if they terminated Hernandez’s contract because he was convicted of murder but was later exonerated due to this peculiarity of Massachusetts law.  
 
A few points on the intersection of two of my favorite topics – probate law and the NFL:
 
1.  Hernandez and the Patriots actually settled his grievance for unpaid guaranteed money under his last contract for $1 million in 2014 likely meaning there is no further money to collect from the Pats.
 
2.  The victims of Hernandez have filed lawsuits against him.  Any judgments against him would be paid from his estate probably rendering it insolvent.  
 
3.  Unless Hernandez signed a will, his fiancé will not receive any portion of his estate because fiancés are not statutory heirs.  His daughter would inherit his estate if he did not leave a will.
 
4.  Drafting a will and thinking about the application of an obscure Massachusetts law involve long term planning and thinking which seem beyond the acuity of a guy seemingly lacking impulse control. 
Photo Credit:  AP/Elise Amendola
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.