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Give It Up or Turnit Loose

James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, died in 2006. His estate is still unsettled due to myriad lawsuits. He had intended to leave $2 million for scholarships for his grandchildren, memorabilia to his children, and the rest to a charity for scholarships for children from SC and Georgia.

Lawsuits have involved whether a woman should have been trustee, whether people should have been removed as trustee, the paternity of a son, and the validity of Brown’s marriage (his wife reportedly was married at the time of their marriage) plus the run of the mill will contest suits. The most recent suit involves whether his wife could sell the rights to his songs.

Two points:

1. There are no good lessons here. If heirs want to fight, they will find reasons to fight and no planning can prevent that.

2. I always preferred the music of Brown’s contemporaries, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, both who died tragically young. One benefit of dying young is that there is no large estate to fight over nor large family to fight.

 

Photo Credit:  Michael Holahan/Augusta Chronicle, via Associated Press and linked NYT article
License:  Fair Use/Education

Unduly Influenced Boss (Sumner Redstone Pt. 5)

sumner redstoneViacom and CBS President, Sumner Redstone, is back in the news this week. He removed Phillipe Dauman and George Abrams, who are directors of Viacom, as Trustees of one of his trusts. They are contesting their removal by alleging he is incompetent. In a huge twist of irony/self-preservation/whatever you want to call it, only six months ago they testified he was competent to remove a girlfriend as his health care proxy.

Three brief points:

1. The stakes in the previous battle involved who could make his health care decisions if he could not (while the real plot was whether he could change his will to disinherit his former girlfriend) while these stakes are who gets to control Viacom and CBS after Redstone’s death.

2. I think if Redstone is in a wheelchair, being fed by a feeding tube, and able to communicate only through an aide now, and was in the same condition six months ago, he was likely incompetent at both junctures.

3. Dauman and Abrams have reaped what they have sown. Being close to Redstone is like having an alligator as a pet – it might seem cool, but eventually it (i.e. he) will devour you.

 

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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.