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We Rebelled Against Monarchy for a Reason

Times are slow in the estate planning news area. I have been awaiting the resolution of a court hearing in Hawaii about the estate of their last living “Princess” for the past month. Alas, nothing has been reported.

Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawananakoa is considered the last living Hawaiian princess. Her great-aunt was the last Queen of Hawaii. Her great-grandfather was a pineapple magnate who left her a fortune. The 91 year old survived a stroke last summer. Her long time attorney was granted control of her $250 million estate. Her long time 64 year old girl friend married her last Fall after initially breaking up with her because she wanted more than the $700K annual allowance she was receiving.

A few points of some pithiness:

1. Planning wise, Abigail should have had a financial power of attorney designating someone to handle her finances if she were incapacitated.

2. She also should have a medical power of attorney allowing someone to assist her with her medical decisions when necessary.

3. Hawaiians revere their royalty no matter how tenuously connected to the throne from 125 years ago.

4. Some (including me) might call a woman who marries an incapacitated wealthy woman 27 years older than her an opportunist rather than a wife.

Photo Credit:  AP

License:  Fair Use/Eduction

Between a Rock and Hard Place

greenwich village new

Bill Cornwell lived in a Greenwich Village brownstone with his same sex partner for 50 years. When he died two years ago, his will left the building and all of his possessions to his partner. However, the will was only witnessed by one individual while NY law requires two witnesses. Without a valid will, his estate will pass to his closest living relatives who are his nieces and nephews who recently sold the building for $7 million. The partner has since filed suit trying to prove that he and Mr. Cornwell were actually married, although they were not, so he can be considered the closest heir.

So many points and such short attention spans:

1. All wills require two witnesses not related to the individual and who will not receive any assets under the will.

2. Using a DIY will kit could lead to problems with properly executing wills (among other issues)

3. The legal arguments made by the partner verge on stupid. One of them is that even though they lived in NY, which does not recognize common law marriage, they bought a dog in Pennsylvania in 1991 as a symbol of their commitment to each other and because Pennsylvania used to recognize common law marriage they should be considered as married.

4. The 85 year old partner would be better off dropping the law suit and accepting the offer of the nieces and nephews to live in the apartment for 5 years at a monthly rental of $10 and receive $250,000 upon the sale of the building.

5. The entire problem could have been avoided if they had simply married each other once gay marriage became legal.

6. One niece claimed, apparently with a straight face, that her uncle did not want his partner to inherit or he would have properly executed the will. She also suggested that perhaps the men were just friends or great companions. The address of the rock under which she lives is unknown.

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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.