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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

 

Black Mamba Trust

This is not about trusting a black mamba. In fact, when we were in Zambia last year, we were advised not to walk to our cabin by ourselves because of the presence of black mambas (and hippos). I was skittish and hyper-aware the entire time.

When Kobe Bryant, aka the Black Mamba, died in January he left a trust for the benefit of his widow, Vanessa, and their daughters. The trust was last amended before the birth of his youngest daughter, Capri, who is not mentioned as a beneficiary. His widow has petitioned the LA Superior Court to add Capri as a beneficiary of the trust.

Several brief points:

1. When drafting a trust, I usually refer to “children” so clients do not have to amend their trusts when they have additional children. The exception is when there is the possibility of illegitimate children who should be excluded.

2. Kobe created his trust in 2003 and had amended it when each daughter was born, except for his youngest. Apparently, it is easy to get distracted and waste time when retired.

3. Kudos to Vanessa. Usually, people are suing to exclude people from a trust rather than include them.

Photo credit:  Vanessa Bryant/Instagram

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Hard Work Pays Off

 
Juice WRLD was a 21 year old rapper who died late last year from an opioid overdose. He allegedly swallowed several Percocet pills to hide them from police who were waiting to search his private plane for drugs and guns upon landing in Chicago.
 
His mother has asked to be appointed as his estate representative. The estate was recently revealed to be worth $3.2 million. His assets consist of a Miami condo worth $1.5 million, a bank account valued at $1 million, and personal property (mostly watches and jewelry) worth $450K. TMZ reported that he might have additional assets in a trust
 
Several quick points:
 
1. Mr. WRLD’s estate will likely exceed what is initially reported because the listed assets do not include his music royalties.
 
2. His estate will increase in size because the single he recorded with Eminem and which was released posthumously (for him) hit Number 3 on the US music charts and went Number One in the UK (apologies for channeling Casey Kasem).
 
3. It is nice that TMZ finally acknowledged that celebrities might have assets in a trust which are not included in probate filings, but in this case that is misplaced. If a man did not have a will (his mom is asking to be appointed as administrator, she is not designated as executrix in his will), he did not have a trust.
 
4. Unsurprisingly, like most Millenials and Gen Z-ers, Mr. WRLD apparently did not own any stocks or bonds. Consider his heirs fortuitous in these turbulent markets.
 
Photo Credit:  @JustinMyView/R1 Digital
License:  Fair Use/Education
 
 

Coronavirus Is Not the Only Threat to the Elderly

 

Photo Credit:  WuMo Comic Strip (Wulff and Morganthaler)

License:  Fair Use/Education

Knives Out

The film “Knives Out” is an award nominated dark comedy written by Rian Johnson, who is best (and actually only) known as the writer and director of “The Last Jedi”, the 8th installment of the “Star Wars” saga. The film involves the death of the patriarch of a family, his will, and the machinations of his family to obtain his estate. It also involves the Hercule Poirot-esque detective played by Daniel Craig investigating the death.

Without revealing any significant plot parts, I noticed a few estate planning points:

1. Will readings are entirely a creative device for Hollywood. I have never been part of one in 30+ years of practice.

2. The grandchildren were part of the angry family pining for an inheritance, but rarely would grandchildren inherit a meaningful sum from their grandparent unless their own parent were deceased.

3. The film did correctly reference the Slayer Statute.

4.Channeling my Gene Siskel, skinny, late middle-aged, bald man critic mode – if you are looking for something to stream, “Knives Out” is much more entertaining than the multitude of sequels and re-makes released by Hollywood last year.

Photo Credit (Unknown, but happy to give credit)

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

TML Again

I wrote Paul Daugherty’s The Morning Line blog for the Cincinnati Enquirer again today. I riffed on the arrogance of the Bengals, the over-achieving of UC hoops, the inanity of the Presidential primary process, and a brief trip report about our month in Phoenix. I hope you enjoy it.it:  

 

 

 

Photo Credit:  Kareen Elgazzar for Cincinnati Enquirer

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article written by me)

21st Century Mourning (and Immortality)

 

Credit:  WuMo by Wulff & Morgenthaler

License:  Fair Use/Education

Lust for Charities

I am back after a two month hiatus fostered by writing for other projects, being slammed at work, re-locating our lives to Phoenix for five weeks, and suffering a dearth of worthwhile news in the celebrity estate planning area. Who knew that the death of a 103 year Hollywood icon would snap the streak?

Media outlets, led by the Daily Mirror from London, are reporting that the recently deceased Kirk Douglas left $50 million of his $61 million fortune to charity. Specifically, he left the money to the Douglas Foundation which he and his 100 year old widow, founded in 1964. All accounts seem flummoxed by where he left the remaining $11 million of his estate. The same reports want to scandalize the fact that he did not leave any money to his famous son, Michael Douglas. No links to his actual will have appeared on line yet.

Several illuminating points:

1. California is a community property state which means that Douglas’ widow, Anne, likely has an estate also worth $61 million.

2. In 2020, an individual may leave $11.6 million free of estate taxes to children or other individuals. It is not a coincidence that $11 million is the amount of funds that the reporters cannot account for. Those funds will likely fund a trust for his wife and two sons.

3. It is extremely rare to leave funds to a child while a spouse is living.

4. Michael Douglas is reportedly worth $300 million which is more than he can spend in his remaining years. It does not make sense to leave any funds to an independently wealthy 75 year old cancer survivor who will pay estate taxes on 40% of the inherited assets at the time of his death.

5. Journalism is not hard, but it certainly is lazy when journalists are afraid to have reliable sources and to ask questions about concepts with which they are unfamiliar.

Photo Credit:  Catherine Zeta Jones Instagram

License:  Fair Use/Education (from linked article)

Happy New Year

Wishing everyone an incredible 2020.

Merry Christmas

Our family wishes you and your family a terrific Christmas.

The Morning Line – Year End Awards

I guest wrote Paul Daugherty’s TML blog for the Cincinnati Enquirer again yesterday. I handed out some year end “awards” while being critical of the Bengals and their coach. I hope you enjoy it.

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)

One More Sports Post

Bill Cunningham of WLW interviewed me Monday about the blog post I wrote for The Cincinnati Enquirer on Friday. It was incredibly fun.

Episode is here (my part is towards the end at the 88 minute mark).

 

TML – The Bengals Edition

I guest wrote Paul Daugherty’s The Morning Line Blog on Friday. I focused on the Bengals and a possible solution for their ills. I also gave a brief trip report for our South Africa trip.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit:  Cincinnati Enquirer

License:  From article I wrote 🙂

Back In Town

Janice and I were in South Africa and Zambia for 10 days on one of our best trips ever. We visited Cape Town and the surrounding area, spent three nights on a safari, and visited Victoria Falls and its Devil’s Pool. Pic is from hike up Table Mountain in Cape Town. We cannot recommend the trip enough.

Self Care

Mac Miller is a rapper whose music I am unfamiliar with, but whom my children have seen in concert. He died last year of a drug overdose involving fentanyl. Surprisingly, he left behind a will and a trust. Several weeks ago, we learned that his estate was valued at $11.3 million and that he left various personal items to his friends (think laptops, guitars, and jewelry) and his financial assets of $5 million and musical royalties and master recordings valued at $6.5 million to his family.

Several points:

1. Kudos to Mr. Miller for being the rare 26 year old to prepare a will and trust.

2. His estate will likely not have to pay any federal estate taxes because administration expenses (and perhaps state estate taxes) will reduce the net value below the $11.2 million in effect last year.

3. For an artist with a short career with a limited reach and the decline of physical media, a value of $5 million for the master recordings seems optimistic.

Photo Credit:  Mac Miller Instagram

License:  Fair Use/Education

Been Busy Part Two

Had lunch in Greenville yesterday with Steve Gruber, my high school cross country and track coach. His coaching and advice were an important part of my high school years and later running experience. It was great to catch up with him and see how he has not aged.

Post to follow.

Been Busy Part 1

Apologies for not posting much recently. The celebrity estate planning news world has been incredibly quiet except for the court hearing about Britney Spears’ conservatorship and continued fighting about who will administer Aretha Franklin’s estate. Also, I have been out of town nearly every weekend. Here is a pic from last weekend’s bike trip to Asheville with my cycling/skiing buddies. Estate planning post to follow.

Contact Me

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.