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Not All Step-Mothers Are Evil

 
A British farmer died and left his second wife of nine years the sum of $155,000.  He left each of his sons from a prior marriage the sum of $81,000.  The sons contested the will by arguing that their father, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease for 20 years,  was incompetent when he made the will.  The argued that his prior will which left his wife the sum of $125,000 was his real will.  After years of litigation, and $250,000 of legal fees, the court ruled that his last will was valid and that all of the legal fees for the will contest were to be paid by the sons, not the estate.   In his ruling, the judge stated the sons were unreasonable and frivolous for fighting over such a small amount which was motivated by their dislike of their mother.   
 
Several non-pithy points:
 
1.  The sons were simply expressing their disdain for their dad’s second wife by fighting over such a small amount and likely hoping to force their step-mother to spend her entire inheritance on legal fees.  Bleed her dry, if you will.
 
2.  Unlike the U.S. where each party is responsible for his own legal fees, the British system allows the loser to pay the legal fees of all parties.
 
3.  Editorializing a bit here, I have never understood the visceral dislike or animosity towards second spouses.  From a child’s point of view, I embraced my mom’s second husband because he was able to provide her companionship, someone to travel and dine with, a social life, and mental stimulation.  He was also able to assist her with her medical needs, whether they were doctor appointments or recovering from surgeries or illnesses (the same applies times two for the woman my father in law has dated for five years – she is an angel).  I never viewed him as a replacement for my father, but simply as a good man in the next chapter of my mom’s life.  Sadly, I do not think enough children view their parent’s second spouse in a similar manner.  These British guys were twits in not appreciating the woman who took care of their ailing father to the best of her abilities. 
 
Photo Copyright:  Paul Keogh
License:  Fair Use/Education

Bad Mom

Ken Thompson was the Brooklyn District Attorney who died of cancer in October.  Two weeks prior to his death, he allegedly changed his will to omit any bequest to his mother and instead left his estate in trust for his wife and 2 young children.  

His mother is contesting the will alleging that he did not know what he was doing due to his illness.  As support for her theory, she argues that Thompson was unhappy with his marriage because of the amount of money his wife was spending.

Three quick points:

1.  It is anything but unusual for a man with young children to leave his entire estate to his wife and children.  Providing for a mother is what would be unusual.  

2.  The creation of trusts to assist his wife with financial management of the inheritance shows mental clarity not lack of mental capacity.

3.   If Thompson was unhappy with his wife’s spending, he is in the majority of husbands.

D List Actress, A List Will Contest

meadow 2C581E1600000578-0-image-m-12_1442327019151Meadow Williams is an actress of whom you have never heard and who appeared in movies you never saw.  She was married to Gerald Kessler, founder of Natural Organics natural supplements company, for four years prior to his death earlier this year.  He was 31 years older than her.  In 2013, he changed his will to leave all of his $800 million estate to her while excluding his 2 children and 5 grandchildren.  His children and grandchildren have contested the will on various grounds, including fraud, undue influence, lack of mental capacity, and the fact that Ms. Williams’ divorce from a prior husband was never finalized even though it was filed in 1994.

Several points:

1.  The fact that Ms. Williams might not have been officially divorced should not be a factor in whether Kessler’s will was valid – he could leave her money whether they were married or not.  The estate tax implications vary, but the bequest remains the same.

2.  Still, 20 years to finalize a divorce?

3.  If Ms. Williams did convince her husband to leave her all of his estate, she might have over-reached.  She could have lived comfortably on any single digit fraction of his estate while still leaving money for his children.

4.  Ironic that that the children of a fortune based on natural supplements allege fraud in a will contest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Thyself and Love Thy Shrink

Amy Blumenthal moved to NYC and started seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Susan Turner, to fulfill her prescriptions.  Six months later Turner allegedly dropped Blumenthal as a patient, started dating her, and soon moved into her apartment.  Blumenthal eventually re-wrote her will to leave her $7 million estate to Turner.  Blumenthal died 3 1/2 years after starting the romantic relationship with Turner.  Blumenthal’s brother, a hedge fund manager and owner of a swimwear line, is challenging the will on the grounds that Turner unduly influenced his sister in the preparation of her will.

Several quick points:

1.  Although it is unethical for a psychiatrist to date a patient whom the psychiatrist is treating, it is not unethical for the psychiatrist to be named as a beneficiary of the patient’s will although an argument can be made that the psychiatrist unduly influenced the patient.

2.  When a woman leaves her estate to her girlfriend of 3 1/2 years while ignoring her brother the hedge fund manager who is presumably well off, it is difficult to prove undue influence.

3.  I thought that hedge fund managers only cared about billions, not single digit millions.  I also did not think that they had sideline swimwear businesses.

blumenthal

 

Cheat His Mom Then Cheat His Son

Anthony Marshall was the son of socialite Brooke Astor.  He was convicted of elder abuse of his mother and served two months in jail for stealing $14 million from her.  In his will, which was recently admitted to probate court, he left all of his assets to his second wife and her children.  He specifically excluded his son, Philip Marshall, who was the individual who notified authorities of his father’s treatment of Ms. Astor.  The younger Marshall will not contest his father’s will.

Three quick points:

1.  The will would be difficult to challenge unless the younger Marshall could prove that his father lacked mental capacity to execute the will.

2.  The purposeful omission of the younger Marshall for ratting out his father is evidence that the father was mentally competent.

3.  If a man steals from his mom, it is not beneath him to vengefully disinherit his son.

brooke-astor

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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.