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2 Broke Girls

sumner-redstoneSumner Redstone is the divorced, 92 year old billionaire who owns a controlling interest in both CBS and Viacom.  His relationships with two much younger women were profiled in Vanity Fair earlier this year.  Since the publication of the article, and likely because of it, he has severed his contacts with both women.  

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Daddy Knows Best (But His Daughters Are Resentful)

Following up on the most recent post.  The 21 and 17 year old daughters of Maurice Laboz, who left them each $10 million in trust but provided that they can receive the funds earlier if they meet certain conditions, are reportedly going to court this week to challenge the list of conditions. Their mother is also set to contest the will of her estranged husband.

Several quick points:

1.  As stated ad nauseam here, the grounds for contesting a will or trust are two:  lack of mental capacity or undue influence.  The detailed conditions imposed by Mr. Laboz show a clarity of thought which rules out lack of mental capacity.

2.  Infrequently, the terms of a trust can be challenged because they are against public policy such as when a trust prohibits a beneficiary from marrying a person from a different faith or race.

3.  Rather than being against public policy, some would argue that it is good public policy to keep millions out of the hands of 21 and 17 year old beneficiaries.

4.  Others would also argue that it is good public policy to prohibit teens and 20-somethings from adding to the national tattoo epidemic.

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Let’s Litigate Two!

In playing his entire Hall of Fame career for the Chicago Cubs, Ernie Banks became the most famous and beloved player in Cubs history.  At the time of his death last month, he had been estranged from his third wife for 7 years.  He revised his will several months before his death to leave all of his assets to his caregiver of several years and to nominate her as his executrix.  His sons are questioning the validity of his will while his ex-wife has gone to court to prevent the caregiver from cremating his body and spreading his ashes in Wrigley Field.  His sons and estranged wife both allege he was suffering from dementia prior to his death.  The funeral home which handled his funeral and the cemetery where he was supposed to be buried both state that they have no knowledge about the location of his body.

Three quick points:

1.  A will revised by an individual immediately prior to death which leaves assets to a care giver instead of children is ripe for contesting on the grounds of both lack of mental capacity AND undue influence.  I doubt this will work out in the favor of the care giver.

2.  It is possible that the body of Mr. Banks is located with the head of Ted Williams.

3.  Steve Bartman wishes he could have vanished as effortlessly as the body of Mr. Cub.

Ernie Banks

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

The NYT blogged about a woman who left her estate to her daughters while disinheriting the children of her son who predeceased her.  Although she was suffering from dementia, two weeks before her death she re-affirmed a prior will which included the grandchildren from her dead son.  She then changed her mind five days later and excluded the grandchildren.  The grandchildren challenged the will and eventually settled for a small amount to be shared among them.   The protagonist granddaughter decried that she wished her grandmother had conversed with her about the will and that she wished her grandmother had left her wishes in a letter.

Several points:

1.   Wills may be challenged on the grounds of undue influence (“Mom, leave it to us, our dead brother’s kids are never around”) and lack of mental capacity (i.e. dementia).  Both grounds seem to be present in this case.  It seems that they could have fought longer for their father’s share.

2.  When one’s parent dies and one wishes to inherit the deceased parent’s share of a grandmother’s estate, constant contact, e-mails, visits, thinking of you cards, and holiday gatherings are time well spent.

3.  Contrary to the granddaughter’s naive wishes, clients never tell someone they are are being disinherited much less express those wishes in a writing.  The will serves as that written document.  The woman, Kate, was smart to not use her last name lest she and her naivete be subject to ridicule by those who met her.

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Going for a Touchdown When a Field Goal Would Have Sufficed

Jim Carlen was one of the winningest football coaches at the University of South Carolina.  His children from his first marriage, which ended in 1980, are suing his 2nd wife of 29 years alleging that she influenced him to leave all of his estate to her. 
His 2007 will and all prior wills had included the children from his first marriage.  The 2010 will, executed one year after he was diagnosed with dementia, left everything to his widow.  In 2011, he executed a power of attorney in favor his wife which she purportedly used to transfer assets to herself prior to his death 
Several points:
1.  A will executed by an individual diagnosed with dementia that substantially changes his estate plan will always be challenged by the beneficiaries of the prior will.
2.  The coach could have provided for both his widow and children by leaving assets to her in a trust and having them distributed to the children upon her death.
3.  Proving that pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered, the widow would have been better off ensuring that the children received something rather than seeing them disinherited entirely.
4.  45 wins constitutes the third most wins at South Carolina?  That might explain the one conference championship it its history.        

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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.