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Stinky Cheese Man

Eugene Brown died at the age of 93 in Corning ,California. His body was discovered after the mail carrier reported that he was not sitting outside waiting for her for five consecutive days. He was survived by three nephews and a niece, but was in contact with none of them.
 
He owned a house purchased in the 1970’s, a car purchased in the 1980’s with only 74,000 miles on it, and $2.7 million. He did not have a bed and only had two slices of wrapped cheese singles in his fridge at the time of his death. Besides the mailman, the only person who he spoke with regularly was his investment manager. Because he did not have a will, his nephews and niece inherited his estate even though some of them had not seen him in 50 years and some thought he had died years ago.
 
Several repetitive points:
 
1. Without a will, state law determines who inherits an estate. The result is the closest living relative(s).
 
2. 56% of Americans do not have a will.
 
3. Mr. Brown did not have any friends, but was a somewhat devout Catholic. He could have left his estate to any number of Catholic organizations.
 
4. Rather than saving his money so that his distant relatives could inherit it, Mr. Brown would have been better off spending at least some of the money on a bed, a more modern vehicle, unprocessed cheese, and attorney fees to prepare a will.
 
Photo Credit:  Tehama County Public Guardian
License:  Fair Use/Education (in linked article)

I Don’t Think I Love You

Limping to the end of the year while looking for celebrity news. Finally found some with respect to former teen heartthrob, David Cassidy, of Partridge Family fame. The will of the thrice divorced entertainer leaves his entire $150K estate to his son, Beau, from his third marriage. Cassidy specifically excluded his daughter from a previous relationship, actress Katie Cassidy, from the will. Meanwhile, a law firm which represented him has sued the estate for $100K of unpaid fees.

Several points:

1. Cassidy is free to leave his assets to whom he wishes – he is not obligated to leave them to his out of wedlock daughter.

2. The law firm should be paid from the estate before beneficiaries receive any distributions.

3. $150K estate after 50 years in show business? Divorce and drugs are expensive habits.

Photo Credit:  Facebook.com/Respect for Katie Cassidy

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

Don’t Be Like John B. (Estate Planning Lessons From “S-Town”)

 “S-Town” is the critically acclaimed successor podcast to “Serial.”  The anti-hero, John B, lives in a Faulkner-esque house on 128 acres in Woodstock, Alabama with his octogenarian mother who suffers from dementia.  He is a genius horologist (clock repairman), builder of a “Shining” type maze on his property, hypocrite about tattoos, and so obsessed with climate change and other problems that he makes Thomas Malthus seem optimistic.

John B. was thought to be worth a large amount of money by residents of Woodstock.  During the podcast he mentions that he wants to leave $20,000 to his friend, Tyler.  He also tells Tyler (spoiler alert) on the night that he commits suicide that Tyler can have his property.  Sadly, John B. died without writing a will or without having a plan for someone to take care of his mother.  Mystifyingly, John B. claims to have been unbanked which led Tyler and others to search his property for locations where he could have buried gold and cash.  He did leave instructions with a friend about what to do and whom to contact after his death.

Several points:

1.  If one has to choose between leaving a will or instructions about what to do after death, one should choose a will.

2.  Embrace the power of “AND”.  One should be able to leave a will AND instructions about what to do after death.

3.  Without a will, John B’s assets if found legally will go to his mother.  Without a health care power of attorney, the care of his mother will go to a relative willing to serve as guardian.

4.  Being unbanked might make sense for someone of little financial means.  For someone who might have made hundreds of thousands dollars annually and is prone to suicidal threats, being unbanked can only lead to one’s property looking like a scene from “Holes.”      

 
Photo Copyright:  James Breeden for Daily Mail (?)
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.