Market Watch: “Creating an estate plan is a gift to the people you leave behind. By expressing your wishes, you’re trying to guide your loved ones at a difficult, emotional time. All too often, though, well-meaning people do things destined to create discord, rancor and resentment among their heirs. What looks good on paper may play out disastrously in real life, says estate and trust attorney Marve Ann Alaimo, partner at Porter Wright Morris & Arthur in Naples, Florida. “People want to think everybody will be nice and do right,” Alaimo says. “Human nature is not always that way.” You can reduce the chances of family discord by doing these four things:”
Fox: “A British man murdered his wife and deliberately sank the couple’s catamaran near the Bahamas in a bid to inherit her estate, prosecutors said last week. Lewis Bennett, 41, was charged with second-degree murder on the high seas in the May 2017 disappearance of Isabella Hellmann, 41, of Delray Beach, Florida, in February. Bennett and his wife were on a delayed honeymoon to St. Maarten, Puerto Rico and Cuba.”
‘Carol Burnett’ star Tim Conway recovers from brain surgery as family battle over comic’s fate rages on
Fox: “Tim Conway is recovering from brain surgery as his daughter and second wife fight in court over his care, Fox News learned Monday. The “Carol Burnett Show” star’s daughter, Kelly Conway, revealed that a Los Angeles court has decided a permanent conservatorship of the actor will be appointed in November. Kelly and her stepmother Charlene Conway each want sole conservatorship over the 84-year-old, who is suffering from dementia.“My brothers and I would like to thank the overwhelming support for my dad from fans all over the world that are contacting me via phone, email and social media,” Kelly told Fox News in a statement. “It lifts my brothers and me”
East Bay Times: “The homeowner of a Frank Lloyd Wright estate defended holding weddings on the property, saying there have been “no citations for illegal parking, no DUIs, no fights, no loud quarrels, no excessive noise citations” and calling neighbors’ complaints “baseless.” “In fact, (there have been) no citations whatsoever for anything from the police,” Gerald Shmavonian said in an interview. He added there have been no traffic accidents and no injuries on the site. “Ninety percent of the people take Uber.” “It’s true that there has been no criminal activity,” said Orinda Planning Director Drummond Buckley. But the Orinda official said Shmavonian was still in violation of the city’s zoning ordinance. Orinda bans commercial ventures in residential neighborhoods.”
The Washington Post: “A Vermont man accused by relatives of killing his millionaire grandfather and his mother to collect inheritance money asked a Connecticut probate judge Tuesday to allow him immediate access to $150,000 in a family trust so he can pay for legal expenses. Nathan Carman also requested that his aunt, Valerie Santilli, be removed as trustee of the Nathan Carman Family Trust, a fund that was set up for him by his grandfather in 2011 and is worth about $270,000 today, according to court documents. Judge Owen Eagan set a full hearing date of Sept. 6 and gave Carman, who is representing himself, and Santilli’s lawyers time to question witnesses and exchange documents.”
Ward and Smith: “Some of the most heartbreaking situations we see in our closely-held business and estate practices are families torn apart over differences in dealing with family-owned businesses. When there are problems with family-owned businesses, people tend to think with their hearts, rather than their brains, and often take unreasonable positions that are counterproductive to reaching a satisfactory resolution. Often, the personal relationships among the family members continue to suffer until the business issues have been resolved, and even for a long time afterwards.”
‘You’re getting nothing’: Steve Jobs’ daughter pens sad memoir about their often brutal relationship
SFGate: “Lisa Brennan-Jobs, daughter of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, has published an excerpt from her upcoming memoir “Small Fry” — and it contains heartbreaking details about her difficult relationship with her father. This is the first time Brennan-Jobs has written in depth about her father, who initially denied paternity and refused to pay child support payments to her mother Chrisann Brennan. Jobs died in 2011 aged 56 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.”
ABA Journal: “The estate of the late recording artist and actor Prince is suing an Englewood, New Jersey-based domain broker for cybersquatting the prince.com website. Filed last Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, the suit alleges that Domain Capital is infringing on the estate’s “PRINCE” trademark by owning the domain.”
Son claims his wealthy, reclusive and ill elderly father was pressured into leaving millions to a boarding school prior to freezing to death in his $10M New York City townhouse
Daily Mail: “A court battle is underway over a wealthy and reclusive man’s estate after it was revealed that he left the bulk of his millions to the boarding school he went to as a teen. Peter Knoll, 75, was found dead in his multimillion-dollar Upper East Side, New York City townhouse on January 8, after having died several days prior. A medical examiner declared that he had frozen to death and it was later revealed that he had been living without gas hooked up in his home since 2014. According to the executor of his estate, Peter’s 2017 will declared that each of his three children would receive just $50,000, while his grandchildren were allotted $100,000. Select friends and acquaintances were to receive anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000. “
Tennessean: “A Nashville judge has ruled that three children of the late Glen Campbell have a right to contest the validity of two wills that cut them off from any inheritance from the late singer. In a three-page ruling issued this week, Davidson Probate Judge David Randy Kennedy concluded that the three children have standing to contest wills dated Sept. 1, 2006 and Jan. 7, 2001. Travis, Kelli and Wesley Campbell had petitioned the court to certify that a will contest existed. The three were left out of both wills.”
Daily Mail: “A Los Angeles judge has eliminated two purported sons of Charles Manson from the battle over his estate. Matthew Lentz, a musician who claims Manson conceived him at an orgy in 1967, and Michael Brunner, whose mother was a member of the family, were two of four people fighting over the cult leader’s estate. On Friday, Judge Clifford Klein eliminated them on lack of proof that they were the rightful heirs to all memorabilia or, crucially, his image and publishing rights.”
Heather Mack settles claims for mother’s estate four years after killing her with her boyfriend – and all the money left will go to her daughter Stella, 3
Daily Mail: “‘Body In A Suitcase’ murderer Heather Mack has given up her claim on her mother’s million dollar estate – which will now go to her three-year-old daughter Stella. Mack is serving a ten year sentence in one of the world’s most notorious prisons in Bali for murdering her mom Sheila von Wiese-Mack with her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer in 2014 in a plot to take her inheritance.”
TMZ: “The people who manage Michael Jackson’s estate say The Walt Disney Co. has some nerve for profiting off the tears of MJ’s kids and stealing a bunch of its property … all to make a shoddy TV special they claim never came close to documenting Michael’s ‘Last Days.’ The estate just sued The Walt Disney Co. claiming copyright infringement and saying it never had permission to use a bunch of its footage for its “The Last Days of Michael Jackson” TV special … which premiered last week to more than 5.5 million viewers.”
TMZ: “Charles Manson had his final hurrah Saturday during a memorial service that ended in fire. Manson’s body was front and center at a service held in Porterville, CA. We’re told the body was decomposing badly, and needed heavy makeup and gloves to cover the deterioration. He died 4 months ago but his body was put on ice until a judge decided who would take control of it.”
TMZ: Nas and Kelis are at war over issues involving their 8-year-old son, but they have actually come together and reached a settlement on the issue of custody. We’ve learned Nas and Kelis have agreed to share joint legal and physical custody of Knight.
TMZ: “Logic and his wife, social media star and singer Jessica Andrea, have split after two years of marriage … TMZ has learned. The couple married in October of 2015 when the rapper was just 25 years old. It’s unclear exactly when the two called it quits, but they hit the red carpet together in January at the Grammys.”
Holland & Hart: “As The New York Times recently reported, the will of Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, was recently unsealed in connection with a lawsuit seeking access to the document. Ms. Lee died a resident of Monroeville, Alabama, and, as in Colorado, wills in Alabama are typically considered to be public documents.”
Fox News: “Just one day after the shooting massacre last week at a Florida high school, the woman who cared for the alleged shooter and his brother reportedly filed court papers seeking control of their inheritance, which could total up to $800,000. Roxanne Deschamps also had Zachary Cruz, the brother of shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz, involuntarily committed to a mental facility shortly after the massacre, the New York Post reported, citing a family source.”
Court Holds That A Wife Devised Her Property In Fee Simple Determinable To Her Husband With An Executory Interest To Her Son; So, After The Husband Died, If He Still Owned The Property, It Went To The Son
JDSUPRA: “The rest and residue of my estate, both real, personal and mixed property of every kind and character whatsoever I may own or have any interest in at my death, is hereby bequeathed to my husband, ARTURO HERNANDEZ, to do with as he desires. Upon the death of my husband, ARTURO HERNANDEZ, I give, devise and bequeath any of the rest and residue of my estate both real, personal and mixed property of every kind whatsoever that he may own or have any interest in to my son, ERIC H. FARLEY.”
Trials & Heirs: “Would comedian Richard Pryor be laughing or rolling over in his grave? When Quincy Jones sat down for a recent interview with Vulture, he casually inferred that Marlon Brando slept with both Marvin Gaye and Richard Pryor.”
Forbes : “I read the latest summary sheet of our law firm’s disputed probate, estate and trust cases and came across an insight that should have been obvious (but wasn’t): About 50% of our active disputed-estate cases involve litigated differences between stepmothers and their stepchildren.”
Aaron Spelling died leaving an estate valued at over $500 million dollars. Spelling left the vast majority of his fortune to his wife and left a little less than a million dollars to each of his children. Despite the fortune he left behind and the small value left to each child, there was no contest over the value of Spelling’s estate between his family. This illustrates the value that can be found in having an estate plan prepared by an estate planning lawyer.
Daily Mail: “Tom Benson, the self-made billionaire who owns two of the NFL and NBA’s wealthiest franchises, has broken his silence over the vicious row that has torn his family – and potentially his fortune – apart. The 87-year-old owns the New Orleans Saints football team and the New Orleans Pelicans basketball team and is considered the richest man in Louisiana, worth an estimated $1.9 million. However in January he announced plans to cut his children and grandchildren out of their ownership of the teams once he dies, and transfer everything into the name of his third wife, Gayle Benson, causing the family to immediately file lawsuits against him.”
A will or trust contest can derail your final wishes, rapidly deplete your estate, and tear your loved ones apart. But with proper planning, you can help your family avoid a potentially disastrous will or trust contest.
If you are concerned about challenges to your estate plan, consider the following:
- Do not attempt “do it yourself” solutions. If you are concerned about an heir contesting your estate plan, the last thing you want to do is attempt to write or update your will or trust on your own. Only an experienced estate planning attorney can help you put together and maintain an estate plan that will discourage lawsuits.
- Let family members know about your estate plan. When it comes to estate planning, secrecy breeds contempt. While it is not necessary to let your family members know all of the intimate details of your estate plan, you should let them know that you have taken the time to create a plan that spells out your final wishes and who they should contact if you become incapacitated or die.
- Use discretionary trusts for problem beneficiaries. You may feel that you have to completely disinherit a beneficiary because of concerns that a potential beneficiary will squander their inheritance or use it in a manner that is against your beliefs. However, there are other options than completely disinheriting someone. For example, you can require that the problem beneficiary’s share be held in a lifetime discretionary trust and name a third party, such as a bank or trust company, as trustee. This will insure that the beneficiary will only be entitled to receive trust distributions under terms and conditions you have dictated. You will also be able to control who will inherit the balance of the trust if the beneficiary dies before the funds are completely distributed.
- Keep your estate plan up to date. Estate planning is not a one-time transaction – it is an ongoing process. Therefore, as your circumstances change, you should update your estate plan. An up to date estate plan shows that you have taken the time to review and revise your plan as your family and financial situations change. This, in turn, will discourage challenges since your plan will encompass your current estate planning goals.
By following these four tips, your heirs will be less likely to challenge your estate planning decisions and will be more inclined to fulfill your final wishes. If you are concerned about heirs contesting your will or trust, you should seek the professional advice now.
The Jackson family is at war over Michael Jackson’s estate, rumored to be worth about $1 billion. The rift between the Jackson family and those currently in control of Michael Jackson’s estate has escalated with each side fueling a negative campaign against the other in the media. Estate of Denial reports:
Janet Jackson and two of her siblings ramped up their feud with the men who control the estate of Michael Jackson on Friday night.
A statement issued on behalf of Janet Jackson, her brother Randy and sister Rebbie accused the executors of trying to divide the family and distract from questions about the legitimacy of Michael Jackson’s will.
“The negative media campaign generated by the executors and their agents has been relentless,” wrote Blair G. Brown, a Washington, D.C., attorney for Janet Jackson.
Allegations that the siblings were holding their 82-year-old mother against her will in Arizona made international headlines last week and resulted in a new custody arrangement in which the family matriarch shares guardianship of Michael Jackson’s three children.
In the statement, Brown disputed reports that the siblings were trying to enlist their mother in a battle over the will for their own financial benefit.
Updating your estate plan is critical, especially after major life events. On Wall Street tells us the sad story of artist Thomas Kinkade, who failed to actually update his estate plan despite an apparent desire to do so. On Wall Street has the story:
Legacy expert attorneys Danielle and Andy Mayoras say the untimely death and shoddy estate planning efforts of renowned artist Thomas Kinkade serve as a prime example of why clients should update their wills on a regular – and sober – basis.
It’s estimated that one in 20 American homes have a Thomas Kinkade painting hanging on their walls. The self-proclaimed “Painter of Light” turned his gift of rendering landscapes and other works of art into a tremendous commercial endeavor.
In fact, his numerous corporate holdings reportedly topped $100 million in annual sales some years, primarily due to mass reproduction of his works.
But the “Painter of Light” was not without his demons, primarily alcoholism and a failed marriage. He died suddenly at age 54 in April, an early and untimely demise reportedly caused by “acute intoxication” from alcohol and valium.
His wife, Nanette, had filed for divorce two years before and the couple was legally separated. Kinkade died while living with his girlfriend of 18 months, Amy Pinto-Walsh.
The girlfriend and estranged wife began fighting almost immediately after Kinkade died. Pinto-Walsh was kept from the funeral and slapped with a lawsuit for breach of a confidentiality agreement. The family wanted her to remain quiet and not share any personal details with the media.
Pinto-Walsh did not go away quietly. She went to probate court to enforce two handwritten wills (called “holographic” wills) that she says Kinkade wrote for her benefit in late 2011.
These two handwritten wills are interesting, to say the least. The first one, dated Nov. 11, 2011, bequeaths to Pinto-Walsh the sum of $10 million dollars “from my corporate policy” and his house and property next door “for her security.”
The second will, dated Dec. 11, 2011, includes both of these same bequests to Pinto-Walsh, but further clarifies that the $10 million gift is to be used by Pinto-Walsh to create a museum to show the public his works.
But what is most interesting about these two purported wills is not what they say, but how they are written. They are so illegible that calling them “chicken scratch” may be deemed offensive to chickens. This from a man who left behind an estate reportedly worth more than $66 million because he was so gifted in painting popular works of art.
California has finally joined the majority of states and recognized the tort of intentional interference with expected inheritance (“IIEI”). This adoption was done by the California Court of Appeals based on the fact that the IIEI claim is consistent with other California laws, the fact that of the 42 states that have considered adopting an IIEI claim, 25 states have adopted the claim, that the US Supreme Court has called IIEI as “widely recognized” tort, and other public policy considerations.
The ruling came out of the California Court of Appeals for the Fourth Appellate District, after the deceased’s longtime partner was denied any inheritance by the California probate court. Brent Beckwith was in a committed relationship for nearly 10 years with partner Marc Christian MacGinnis. MacGinnis had no living family members other than his sister, Susan Dahl. But MacGinnis was estranged from his sister.
At one point, MacGinnis showed Beckwith a will on his computer that divided his $1 million plus estate between Beckwith and Dahl. MacGinnis never signed the will. MacGinnis wanted to print and sign the will, but was never able to do so. MacGinnis later fell ill. He asked Beckwith to print the will. When Beckwith couldn’t locate the will, MacGinnis asked Beckwith to prepare a new will, based on the distribution plan MacGinnis had already discussed with Beckwith. When Beckwith called Dahl to discuss the will, Dahl claimed that she had friends who were attorneys and she would have them draft a trust for MacGinnis, which she claimed was more appropriate for her brother. She told Beckwith not to give the new will to MacGinnis for signing. A few days later, MacGinnis went in for surgery. The doctors told Dahl that MacGinnis may not recover from the surgery. However, because Beckwith “was not family”, the doctors did not tell him about the potential risks of the surgery. Dahl did not share this information with Beckwith nor did she ever give MacGinnis any trust documents to sign. MacGinnis later died without signing any estate planning documents.
Since he did not have an estate plan, Dahl was able to successfully claim that she was the sole heir to MacGinnis’ sizable estate. Beckwith disputed Dahl’s claims, but since California’s rules of intestate succession do not recognize MacGinnis’ partner of nearly 10 years, Beckwith got nothing. Beckwith later sued, claiming that Dahl had improperly interfered with his expected inheritance. The result was the court recognizing a new claim for IIEI.
In California, a plaintiff may plead an IIEI claim only if a probate remedy is not available. The California Court identified the five specific elements that a plaintiff must allege to state a claim for IIEI:
1. Expectation of inheritance. The plaintiff must plead that he or she had an expectancy of receiving an inheritance.
2. Causation. “[T]here must be proof amounting to a reasonable degree of certainty that he bequest or devise would have been in effect at the time of the death . . . if there had been no such interference.”
3. Intent. “[T]he defendant had knowledge of the plaintiff’s expectancy of inheritance and took deliberate action to interfere with it.”
4. Tortious interference. “[T]he interference was conducted by independently tortious means, i.e., the underlying conduct must be wrong for some reason other than the fact of the interference.”
5. Damage. “[T]he plaintiff must plead that he was damaged by the defendant’s interference.”
To read the entire story, visit Estate of Denial.
For more than 26 years, a probate battle has raged over the estate of wealthy Connecticut businessman Francis “Hi Ho” D’Addario. Before D’Addario died in 1986, he prepared a will that distributed his estate, valued as high as $162 million, to his wife and five children. Between lawsuits and probate laws that fail to protect against abuse, 26 years later the D’Addario will is still pending before a probate court. Even worse, when the case was unsealed last fall, it was found to be insolvent. But where did $162 million go? Estate of Denial ponders this question:
On a rainy and foggy March night in 1986, a small plane crashed outside of Chicago, killing F. Francis “Hi Ho” D’Addario, one of the most prolific and colorful industrialists of the 20th century in Connecticut.
Successful and wealthy, D’Addario was a 63-year-old Bridgeport businessman who had a will that distributed his substantial estate – valued at as much as $162 million — among his wife and five children.
It was a complicated matter. D’Addario Industries was diverse, from construction and paving to real estate, television and gambling to the Brakettes, a professional women’s softball team. That was nothing, however, compared to the mess that awaited in Connecticut’s probate courts.
Estate of Denial: “For nearly a year, Farmington Hills attorney Steven G. Cohen has publicly hammered Wayne County Probate Judge Freddie Burton Jr. over his handling of the estate of civil rights icon Rosa Parks.
But Burton has finally fired back.
In a two-page order Monday, Burton dismissed Cohen’s recently filed lawsuit against Burton and two probate lawyers Burton put in charge of the estate. Cohen had accused of them of conspiring with Burton to loot Parks’ estate through excessive and unnecessary legal fees.
Burton also dismissed Cohen’s request for a default judgment against Burton and the two lawyers — John Chase Jr. and Melvin Jefferson Jr. — and as well as Cohen’s request for a subpoena to depose all three of them for the lawsuit.”
Probate Lawyer Blog: “We’ve written extensively about the efforts by Eliza Presley to prove that she is half-sister to Elvis Presley and daughter to Vernon Presley, based on DNA and other evidence. Much of this same evidence also supports Eliza’s claim that Elvis Presley is actually alive. You can get caught up to speed starting here, if you haven’t followed this case before.
It’s been more than a year since we last wrote that Eliza’s case was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds. This meant that the court in which she filed her lawsuit was not able to hear the case; rather, the case had to go to a different court. Because of this and other legal hurdles, Eliza has never had her “day in court” to present her evidence to a judge or jury.
As we wrote then, Eliza was at the end of her road — emotionally and financially — and was not able to continue with the case. Trying to re-write the history books, which is what Eliza was literally trying to do, is no easy task. This is especially true when there are those who will go to extraordinary means to try to stop her.”