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Love Means Never Having to Fight Over a Portrait

After Nick Saban declined the University of Texas  football job, the bad week for UT continued when a jury determined that a painting of Farrah Fawcett by Andy Warhol belonged to Ryan O’Neal and was not part of her art collection that she left to the university.  She left none of her estate to long time lover O’Neal which forced him to fight for the ownership of the painting which is estimated to be worth between $1 million and $12 million.

Several points:

1.  Marriage can provide legal protection.  If Ryan and Farrah had married, he would have been entitled to one-third of her estate as a matter of law and could have skipped the drama over the painting.

2.  When one’s former girlfriend/lover/companion leaves $100K to a college boyfriend and nothing to you, perhaps your relationship is not comparable to the idyllic “Love Story.”  Love means never having to fight over a portrait of the deceased.

3.  A photograph with painted eyes and lipstick is worth seven figures?

Double Indemnity Fail

A SC woman murdered both of her 20 something sons, her ex-husband who lived next door, and her step-mother.  She tried to blame the crime on her oldest, murdered son.   She was the beneficiary of insurance policies on the victims in the amount of $680K.  She had previously killed an alleged intruder and kept 3 guns in the house.  She recently plead guilty but mentally ill and was sentenced to life in prison.

What are the estate planning and other issues in this crime?

1.  The killer is precluded from inheriting under the state slayer statute which prevents a murderer from benefiting financially from her crime.

2.  Without valid wills, the sons’ policies will benefit their grandparents, or aunts and uncles if the grandparents are deceased.

3.   If a mother takes out a large life insurance policy on a child, the child should sleep with one eye open.

4.  It is never a good idea to live next door to a mentally ill ex-wife, much less one who has already killed a man and who has a life insurance policy on one’s life.

Beneficiary Designations and Pyrrhic Victory

A Virginia man died of a rare leukemia survived by his 3rd wife.  One of his assets was a $125K insurance policy he received while employed by the federal government.  The policy listed his second wife as the beneficiary.  The surviving spouse contested the former wife’s right to the policy proceeds.

Virginia has a statute which precludes divorced spouses from inheriting from a   deceased former spouse.  Nonetheless, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the former spouse was entitled to the proceeds because the 1954 federal law establishing the insurance program and providing that beneficiary designations must be followed trumped the Virginia statute which omits former spouses.

Several points:

1.  Ohio has a similar statute to Virginia.

2.  After a divorce, individuals MUST revise all of their estate planning documents and update their insurance and retirement plan beneficiary designations.

3.  After a leukemia or cancer diagnosis, no matter how positive the treatment options, individuals need to review their estate planning documents and their beneficiary designations.

4.  I suspect this was a Pyrrhic  victory for the former wife with most of the policy proceeds being consumed by legal fees during the 5 year dispute.  But then, most disputes between former spouses are Pyrrhic.

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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.