21st Century King Lear

© PatrickMcMullan
Photo – Owen Hoffmann License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Herbert Neumann is the trustee of trust which owns 60 works of art worth an estimated $50 million. The most valuable piece is “Untitled (Tyranny)” by Jean-Michel Basquiat. The trust was created by Neumann’s brother for the benefit of Neumann’s 3 daughters. Now, one of the daughters, Belinda Neumann-Donnelly, is suing her father in his capacity as trustee to sell all of the artworks. She claims that the art will be impossible to divide equitably and that she needs funds for her family’s “significant housing, litigation, and education expenses.”

The same daughter has another lawsuit, presumably the source of the significant litigation expenses, against her father involving the sale of another Basquiat painting, “Flesh and Spirit,” formerly owned by her mother who died in 2016 that sold for $30.7 million last year. She claims that her father’s threat to contest the sale of the painting depressed the sales price. Oddly, she lives in the same two family building in NY as her father.
Several points:
1. The lawsuit to sell the paintings owned by the trust is likely premature because the trust likely provides that it will distribute its assets upon the death of Neumann.
2. Neumann’s wife, who owned the painting sold for $30.7 million, disinherited him from her will alleging he abused her. I am surprised that he did not elect against the will which would entitle him to 1/3 of his wife’s estate including part of the painting sales proceeds.
3. If Neumann’s wife gave the painting to the daughter before she died, as some articles insinuate, the wife would have been required to file a gift tax return and pay gift tax on nearly $25 million and the daughter would have to pay capital gain tax on almost the entire sales amount (Mrs. Neumann only paid $15K for the painting).
4. The emperor truly has no clothes because Basquiat paintings look like the drawings of a bored high school student on the back of his spiral notebook.

Trouble Don’t Set Up Like Rain

Marcelle Harrison’s mother and step-father, both of whom were Barbadian immigrants, purchased a house in Boston in 1970 for $23K. Her mom died in 2009. Her step-father died without a will two years later.
 
Now, Harrison and her multi-generation family are being forced to leave the $1 million home because they are not the legal owners. Because her step-father died without a will, his closest living relatives, nieces and nephews who live in Barbados, will inherit his estate. A state representative who lives across the street said “It shocks the conscience to think that this low-income, Barbadian family could be displaced, really out of the blue.”
 
A few points, some of which I have made before:
 
1. The legal outcome is correct – under the statute of intestate succession, which applies when there is no will, Harrison has no claim on her step-father’s estate no matter how long he was married to her mother.
 
2. Thoughtful estate planning is important for everyone, but even more so for second marriages and blended families.
 
3. The local politician might find this outcome shocking, but I am not shocked that a Massachusetts politician would use identity politics to describe the problem while being ignorant of the law.
 
Photo Credit:  Jessica Rinaldi/Boston Globe
License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

This Keeps Me Employed

Comic License:  Nick Galifianakis/Washington Post

License:  Fair Use/Education

Feeling Low Cotton

Gerald Cotten ran QuadrigaCX, one of Canada’s largest crytopcurrency exchange companies.  Last month, the company announced that 30 year old Mr. Cotten died in early December of complications from Crohn’s Disease while building orphanages in India.  The company also announced that $140 million of cryptocurrency was unavailable because all of the currency was stored on a laptop that only he had access to and no one knew the password.   There is concern that the cryptocurrency will be locked on the laptop forever.  However, digital forensic experts have questioned whether the currency is actually on the laptop and whether it was moved previously.

One planning point, one investment point, and a lot of shade.

1. This is a classic instance of making sure that your heirs can access your digital accounts after your death.  I advise my clients to write down their passwords to prevent heirs from being locked out after death.

2. Cryptocurrency investments can be dangerous enough without trusting them to a twenty-something operating on a laptop out of his house in Nova Scotia. 

3. Not to be a conspiracist, but I do question the legitimacy of reports of a young man dying of Crohn’s disease (mortality rate of 1%) while overseas doing charity work with the death reported a month later, and $140 million possibly missing and not simply locked on a computer.  Feel free to call me a cynic, though.

 

 

Photo Credit:  Benoit Tessier/Reuters

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Scourge of Our Times

Newtown police chief, Tom Synan, was featured in a video on USA Today’s sitea about his work on the front line combating opioid addiction and treating it as an illness and not as a crime. I am honored to call him a friend.

 

 

 

Photo credit:  USA Today (actually it is a video)

License:  Fair Use/Education (from the linked article)

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