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It’s Not Right But It’s Okay

The estate of Whitney Houston settled its dispute with the IRS over outstanding estate taxes. The IRS had contended that the valuation of Houston’s back catalog and image and likeness was undervalued by $22 million resulting in $11 million of additional taxes. The settlement was for $2 million. Oddly, or perhaps not given the state of journalism in 2018, the focus of most articles was on the value of her image and likeness but the IRS and the estate differed on that valuation by only $200K.

A few small points:

1. Since the death of Michael Jackson, the IRS has been taxing the image and likeness of dead celebrities with the value based on expected licensing revenues in the future.

2. Cool fact – Robin Williams said that his likeness cannot be used for 40 years after his death rendering its value worthless.

3. In the age of streaming music, the longer the estate held out the less valuable the back catalog of albums became.

4. This was purely a principled, but unemotional, victory for the estate. Houston’s daughter died nearly 3 years ago and Houston was divorced. Any estate tax savings will benefit her mother and her brothers.

The Final Cut (Robin Williams Pt. 3)

robin-williams-435The widow of Robin Williams and his children from his prior marriages settled their dispute over his estate this week.  His third wife was seeking some of his personal belongings, which he left to his children in his will, and funds to continue to reside in their home for the rest of her life.  Williams had left her the home in trust, but apparently did not set aside a specific sum to provide for the upkeep of the house for her lifetime.  The undisclosed settlement provides that she will have sufficient funds to live in the house the rest of her life, plus she will be able to keep their wedding gifts, a bike they purchased on their honeymoon, a watch, and the tuxedo he wore to their wedding.  They also disputed the ownership of various photographs.

Three brief points:

1.  This dispute was really about the funds to keep her in their Tiburon house.  The rest of the items are inconsequential.

2.  I am glad his children were able to allow his widow to have one watch and one bike from his watch and 50 bike collection.

3.  In the era of digital photography, does anyone really fight over the ownership of pictures when they are readily reproduced?

 

 

Dead Actors Society

The children and widow of Robin Williams are continuing to fight over his estate.  His widow is seeking items left in the house even though Mr. Williams’ will left his jewelry, clothing, memorabilia, and awards to his children.  The list of 300 disputed items reportedly includes underwear, slipper, and t shirts.  More importantly, the widow will receive in trust an undetermined amount of money to care for the house he left her.  Of course, the parties cannot agree on this amount.

Several points:

1.  Williams and his attorney should have determined a specific amount for the upkeep of the house and erred on the high side.  Vagueness in a will/trust only leads to disputes.

2.  Fighting over underwear etc. proves that some people want to fight simply because the probate process is their last chance to fight with their siblings or step-parent.

3.  Even though the parties both claim the underwear, rumor has it that they left the Patch Adams memorabilia at the curb for the garbageman.

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World’s Greatest Dad?

Robin Williams’ will was admitted to probate court last week.  It provides that his entire $50 million estate will be left to a trust for the benefit of his 3 children.   The trust provides that his children will receive their inheritance in stages at the ages of 21, 25, and 30.

Several points:

1.  Net of estate taxes, each child will $10 million in installments of $3.33 million.

2.  I would never advise a client to leave such a large sum to a 21 or 25 year old – the child’s initiative to become a successful, independent, adult can be stifled.

3.  I recommend more installments with increasing percentages of funds as the child ages.

4.  Williams’ children will likely view their dad as the “World’s Greatest Dad” but I think this trust is a “Flubber.”

 

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R.I.P. Robin Williams

My favorite piece was his take on golf.  He will be missed.

 

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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.