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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

Bad Mom

Ken Thompson was the Brooklyn District Attorney who died of cancer in October.  Two weeks prior to his death, he allegedly changed his will to omit any bequest to his mother and instead left his estate in trust for his wife and 2 young children.  

His mother is contesting the will alleging that he did not know what he was doing due to his illness.  As support for her theory, she argues that Thompson was unhappy with his marriage because of the amount of money his wife was spending.

Three quick points:

1.  It is anything but unusual for a man with young children to leave his entire estate to his wife and children.  Providing for a mother is what would be unusual.  

2.  The creation of trusts to assist his wife with financial management of the inheritance shows mental clarity not lack of mental capacity.

3.   If Thompson was unhappy with his wife’s spending, he is in the majority of husbands.

What Happens In Vegas, Stays in Vegas?

kirkorianLas Vegas billionaire Kirk Kirkorian died last June a the age of 98. His $2 billion estate has been subject to litigation since his death. A young woman who claimed to be his daughter, but was proven long ago to be the child of the notorious lothario Steve Bing, recently settled her challenge to Kirkorian’s will. Non-paternity notwithstanding, Kirkorian paid $50,000 per month in child support to Kira Bonder until she was 10. As part of her mother’s divorce settlement with Kirkorian after their 30 day marriage, Bonder was supposed to receive $7 million in trust upon Kirkorian’s death. Nonetheless, she challenged that provision and settled for $8.5 million.
 
Several obvious points:
 
1. As the daughter of another man, Kira Bonder was not entitled to any of Kirkorian’s estate so challenging a bequest seems to be without legal merit.
 
2. For Bonder’s sake, I hope that the attorney who handled the will contest charged her based on time spent or on contingency for the increase from $7 million. It would not be fair to her to have to pay him a percentage of the $7 million she was promised and provided.
 
3. The first dollar Bonder receives from Kirkorkian will likely be more than she ever receives from her biological father who also contentiously fathered a child with Elizabeth Hurley.
 
4. What happens in Vegas is not necessarily applicable to the rest of the U.S.

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.

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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.