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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

D List Actress, A List Will Contest

meadow 2C581E1600000578-0-image-m-12_1442327019151Meadow Williams is an actress of whom you have never heard and who appeared in movies you never saw.  She was married to Gerald Kessler, founder of Natural Organics natural supplements company, for four years prior to his death earlier this year.  He was 31 years older than her.  In 2013, he changed his will to leave all of his $800 million estate to her while excluding his 2 children and 5 grandchildren.  His children and grandchildren have contested the will on various grounds, including fraud, undue influence, lack of mental capacity, and the fact that Ms. Williams’ divorce from a prior husband was never finalized even though it was filed in 1994.

Several points:

1.  The fact that Ms. Williams might not have been officially divorced should not be a factor in whether Kessler’s will was valid – he could leave her money whether they were married or not.  The estate tax implications vary, but the bequest remains the same.

2.  Still, 20 years to finalize a divorce?

3.  If Ms. Williams did convince her husband to leave her all of his estate, she might have over-reached.  She could have lived comfortably on any single digit fraction of his estate while still leaving money for his children.

4.  Ironic that that the children of a fortune based on natural supplements allege fraud in a will contest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.