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You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore

zappa 30ZAPPA4-master768Frank Zappa was an eccentric musician who died in 1993. He was survived by his wife and four children – Ahmet, Diva, Dweezil, and Moon. (ed note: he was early in on odd names for celebrity children). For the past decade, Dweezil has played his father’s music on a concert tour titled “Zappa Plays Zappa.” After Zappa’s widow (and Dweezil’s mother) died, Ahmet and Diva became trustees of the family trust and have told Dweezil that he no longer has permission to use the title “Zappa Plays Zappa” without paying $150K each time he performed a song owned by the trust. The concert tour will be titled “Dweezil Zappa Plays Frank Zappa” this summer.
 
Several points:
 
1. The selection of a trustee is vitally important. A corporate trustee would likely be more onerous than the Zappa siblings and extract as much money as possible from Dweezil for performing his father’s music.
 
2. There is no word on how much his mother made Dweezil pay the trust for the use of the music. Odds are that it was minimal.
 
3. Dweezil is correct that the new tour name “does not exactly roll off the tongue.”
 
4. Abel and Cain were unavailable to comment on the sibling rivalry.
 
5. My first rock concert was Frank Zappa at the Armory Fieldhouse in 1978. How my musical tastes have changed.
 
 

Guardians, Drugs, and Embezzlement

boston guardian

 

A Massachusetts man was appointed guardian of his niece and nephew when their parents died in a car crash in 2009.  The man was recently indicted for allegedly stealing approximately $250,000 from their trust fund in the 11 months after he was released from rehab.  He pleaded not guilty.

Three very quick points:

  1. I always recommend that clients designate different individuals to serve as guardian and trustee.
  2. If different people, the guardian should be able to ascertain if the trustee is stealing from the trust.
  3. Embezzlers are smart enough to not use stolen funds to buy tangible property, but not smart enough to avoid being caught.  Such is the lot of gambling and drug addicts.   

Big Tips and Big Bequests

Late NYC art dealer, Robert Ellsworth, was in the news recently because he left $50,000 in his will to two waitresses at his favorite restaurant. He also left $10 million, a house in Connecticut,  and $5,000/month to his boyfriend of 50 years who was 17 when he moved in with Ellsworth  The boyfriend is challenging the will because of bequests made in trust to various charities, including Harvard, which would result in the estate planning attorney earning fees for serving as trustee of the trusts.  The boyfriend alleges that Ellsworth was suffering from dementia when he revised his will to include the charities.

Several points:

1.  Presumably a prior will made by Ellsworth was more favorable to the boyfriend because it would be reinstated if the most recent will is declared invalid.

2.  $10 million and $5K/month seems generous, but is barely 5% of Ellsworth’s $200 million estate.

3.  Regarding the attorney serving as trustee of the charitable trusts, I generally decline to serve as executor or trustee for my clients because of perceived conflicts of interest.

4.  If Cher could live with Sonny when she was 16, I guess it was then socially acceptable for the 17 year old boyfriend to move in with the then 37 year old Ellsworth.  Now, Ellsworth would be arrested for being involved with a minor, unless he was Doug Hutchison and she was Courtney Stodden.

5.  With its $32 billion endowment, can we all agree that Harvard does not need a nickel more and should use its endowment to lower its tuition?

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The Big Messy (Update – Part Trois)

The competency of Tom Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, has been challenged by his family in separate court filings in Texas and New Orleans.  The Texas judge has decreed that Benson needs assistance managing the assets in a Benson family trust.  He appointed two receivers to temporarily replace Benson as trustee.  They are not expected to make dramatic changes to his business holdings.  The New Orleans judge ordered Benson to undergo a psychiatric examination to determine his competency to make the proposed changes to his succession plan.

Three quick points:

1.  This is merely the first round in a likely fifteen round bout.  When billions are at stake, the fight will be long and will not likely be resolved during Mr. Benson’s lifetime.

2.  I doubt that a competent and uninfluenced man would move $25 million out of his family owned bank to a competitor and tell his car dealership manager that he is the only person in San Antonio he trusts.

3.  It is a shame that the court appointed receivers do not have authority to hire a new coordinator for the Saints’s second worst in the league defense.

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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.