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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)

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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.