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Martin Luther King, Jr. Estate fight is resolved

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s three children have been fighting with each other in court over control of his estate and financial legacy.  Here are my prior articles about the Martin Luther King, Jr. estate fight .  Two of the three children had sued Dexter King, their brother, who had the legal authority to make decisions regarding the King Estate.  The Estate was run through a corporation, which Dexter oversaw, until the 2008 lawsuit filed against him in Georgia. Recently, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural D. Glanville had ordered the trio to hold a shareholders meeting and try to resolve their differences.  He also ruled the case would go to trial if no settlement was reached.  Obviously, no one involved wanted the legacy of Martin Luther King fought over in a very public courtroom. So the three children settled, reported today by the Associated Press.  They agreed to allow a neutral person to act as “temporary custodian” to manage the King legacy and corporation, and give the three children time to repair their fractured relationship. This temporary custodian will have a lot on his or her plate.  The King family fight included disagreements over a movie deal with Stephen Spielberg's DreamWorks Studio and a $1.4 million book deal about their famous father's life.  Now the decision to finalize these deals will fall to this temporary custodian. The two warring factions of the King family will each propose three people to serve in this important role, and the judge will interview at least one person from each list and select a single custodian to manage the King estate and legacy. So now a stranger will be left to make decisions about how to protect and uphold the all-important legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.  If he had created a basic will before he died (or better yet, a revocable living trust), King could have hand picked the person or people to manage his affairs and specified what role his children would play.  If he had done so, this entire fight might have been avoided. It's also a good lesson for families facing disputes over the administration of an estate or trust.  The King lawsuit was started because Dexter King's siblings claimed he refused to share information with them and entered into business deals in secret.  Secrecy is rarely a good policy in this situation.  When a loved one dies, families that talk, share information and communicate like a family should can usually avoid feuds like this one.  So do your estate planning, with the help of an experienced attorney.  Hand pick the person you want to manage the savings of a lifetime that you worked so hard for.  And if you lose a parent or other loved one, work together with your siblings and other heirs so that everything is out in the open and no one is left in the dark.  Posted by:  Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!  and co-founder and shareholder of  The Center for Probate Litigation and  The Center for Elder Law   in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law.  You can email him at blog @ trialandheirs.com.

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s three children have been fighting with each other in court over control of his estate and financial legacy.  Here are my prior articles about the Martin Luther King, Jr. estate fight.  Two of the three children had sued Dexter King, their brother, who had the legal authority to make decisions regarding the King Estate.  The Estate was run through a corporation, which Dexter oversaw, until the 2008 lawsuit filed against him in Georgia.

Recently, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural D. Glanville had ordered the trio to hold a shareholders meeting and try to resolve their differences.  He also ruled the case would go to trial if no settlement was reached.  Obviously, no one involved wanted the legacy of Martin Luther King fought over in a very public courtroom.

So the three children settled, reported today by the Associated Press.  They agreed to allow a neutral person to act as “temporary custodian” to manage the King legacy and corporation, and give the three children time to repair their fractured relationship.

This temporary custodian will have a lot on his or her plate.  The King family fight included disagreements over a movie deal with Stephen Spielberg's DreamWorks Studio and a $1.4 million book deal about their famous father's life.  Now the decision to finalize these deals will fall to this temporary custodian.

The two warring factions of the King family will each propose three people to serve in this important role, and the judge will interview at least one person from each list and select a single custodian to manage the King estate and legacy.

So now a stranger will be left to make decisions about how to protect and uphold the all-important legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.  If he had created a basic will before he died (or better yet, a revocable living trust), King could have hand picked the person or people to manage his affairs and specified what role his children would play.  If he had done so, this entire fight might have been avoided.

It's also a good lesson for families facing disputes over the administration of an estate or trust.  The King lawsuit was started because Dexter King's siblings claimed he refused to share information with them and entered into business deals in secret.  Secrecy is rarely a good policy in this situation.  When a loved one dies, families that talk, share information and communicate like a family should can usually avoid feuds like this one. 

So do your estate planning, with the help of an experienced attorney.  Hand pick the person you want to manage the savings of a lifetime that you worked so hard for.  And if you lose a parent or other loved one, work together with your siblings and other heirs so that everything is out in the open and no one is left in the dark. 

Posted by:  Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founder and shareholder of The Center for Probate Litigation and http://www.brmmlaw.com/ in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law.  You can email him at blog @ trialandheirs.com.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Estate fight is resolved

Brooke Astor’s son found guilty

The jury verdict is in for one of the most intriguing will contest cases ever.  The son of the late New York philanthropist and millionaire, Brooke Astor, had been charged with 16 counts related to fraud, larceny, forgery, and more, stemming from changes to her will and related (alleged) wrongdoing.  Here are my prior blog articles on the case . Well maybe you can remove the word “alleged”.  The jury convicted Anthony Marshall and his co-defendant, lawyer Francis X. Morrissey, Jr.  Marshall, age 85, faces up to 25 years in jail based on the guilty verdict for 14 of the 16 counts, including fraud in connection with her will, larceny, conspiracy and a host of related charges. While some of the convictions do not surprise me — especially the retroactive lump-sum pay raise he gave himself of $1 million (for managing Astor's finances) — I must express my surprise at the will-related convictions.  People with Alzheimer's have good and bad days, and proving Astor was incompetent at the moment of signing, based on the high proof required in a criminal case (beyond a reasonable doubt), was very hard to do.  But the prosecution was aggressive.  The trial lasted more than 19 weeks and involved 72 witness who testified (in varying degrees) about Astor's mental decline.  Only two of these were defense witnesses. Marshall's attorneys have already promised an appeal.  For example, they will clearly challenge the jury verdict based on one juror's note given to the judge during their 12 days of deliberation.  The note said the female juror felt her personal safety was threatened by another juror and asked to be excused.  The judge denied the request.  Defense attorneys argue this prevented the jury from rendering a fair and objective verdict.  With a trial this long, they will likely find dozens of other grounds on which to base their appeal. In addition to the appeal, the case will also move to Surrogate's Court (New York's probate court) to determine whether the will and amendments should be invalidated based on lack of mental competency and fraud.  This seems to be a certainty after the criminal verdict.  How much of Astor's $180 million estate will pass to Marshall remains to be seen.  Here is the New York Times article about the verdict .  Families can learn two valuable lessons from this case.  First, it shows how important the proper estate planning is, because any family can be embroiled in a lengthy and expensive court fight after a loved one passes.  Good estate planning is the best way to prevent this. Second, even the very wealthy can be victims of financial exploitation and abuse.  When you have an elderly loved one with a diagnoses of dementia or Alzheimer's, or even notice increased memory loss or confusion, it is time to help make sure their financial affairs are in order and monitor their bank statements and legal documents.  Apparently, even someone as wealthy as Anthony Marshall can be guilty of this crime (he was already a multi-millionaire).  Imagine what could happen to your elderly parent or grandparent with so many people desperate for money.  Do not turn a blind eye.  Be proactive.  Be safe.  Do not let what happened to Brooke Astor happen to your family members.  It's not always easy to prevent, but the sooner you spot a problem, the easier it is to prevent or rectify. Not sure how to talk to your loved ones about this?  I, with my co-author Danielle Mayoras, wrote a book to help address this very point, including a complete analysis of the Brooke Astor case and dozens of other true celebrity stories.  We help people learn from celebrity errors so they can protect their heirs.  You can learn about Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! here .    Posted by:  Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!  and co-founder and shareholder of  The Center for Probate Litigation and  The Center for Elder Law   in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law.  You can email him at blog @ trialandheirs.com.

The jury verdict is in for one of the most intriguing will contest cases ever.  The son of the late New York philanthropist and millionaire, Brooke Astor, had been charged with 16 counts related to fraud, larceny, forgery, and more, stemming from changes to her will and related (alleged) wrongdoing.  Here are my prior blog articles on the case.

Well maybe you can remove the word “alleged”.  The jury convicted Anthony Marshall and his co-defendant, lawyer Francis X. Morrissey, Jr.  Marshall, age 85, faces up to 25 years in jail based on the guilty verdict for 14 of the 16 counts, including fraud in connection with her will, larceny, conspiracy and a host of related charges.

While some of the convictions do not surprise me — especially the retroactive lump-sum pay raise he gave himself of $1 million (for managing Astor's finances) — I must express my surprise at the will-related convictions.  People with Alzheimer's have good and bad days, and proving Astor was incompetent at the moment of signing, based on the high proof required in a criminal case (beyond a reasonable doubt), was very hard to do. 

But the prosecution was aggressive.  The trial lasted more than 19 weeks and involved 72 witness who testified (in varying degrees) about Astor's mental decline.  Only two of these were defense witnesses.

Marshall's attorneys have already promised an appeal.  For example, they will clearly challenge the jury verdict based on one juror's note given to the judge during their 12 days of deliberation.  The note said the female juror felt her personal safety was threatened by another juror and asked to be excused.  The judge denied the request.  Defense attorneys argue this prevented the jury from rendering a fair and objective verdict.  With a trial this long, they will likely find dozens of other grounds on which to base their appeal.

In addition to the appeal, the case will also move to Surrogate's Court (New York's probate court) to determine whether the will and amendments should be invalidated based on lack of mental competency and fraud.  This seems to be a certainty after the criminal verdict.  How much of Astor's $180 million estate will pass to Marshall remains to be seen. 

Here is the New York Times article about the verdict

Families can learn two valuable lessons from this case.  First, it shows how important the proper estate planning is, because any family can be embroiled in a lengthy and expensive court fight after a loved one passes.  Good estate planning is the best way to prevent this.

Second, even the very wealthy can be victims of financial exploitation and abuse.  When you have an elderly loved one with a diagnoses of dementia or Alzheimer's, or even notice increased memory loss or confusion, it is time to help make sure their financial affairs are in order and monitor their bank statements and legal documents.  Apparently, even someone as wealthy as Anthony Marshall can be guilty of this crime (he was already a multi-millionaire).  Imagine what could happen to your elderly parent or grandparent with so many people desperate for money. 

Do not turn a blind eye.  Be proactive.  Be safe.  Do not let what happened to Brooke Astor happen to your family members.  It's not always easy to prevent, but the sooner you spot a problem, the easier it is to prevent or rectify.

Not sure how to talk to your loved ones about this?  I, with my co-author Danielle Mayoras, wrote a book to help address this very point, including a complete analysis of the Brooke Astor case and dozens of other true celebrity stories.  We help people learn from celebrity errors so they can protect their heirs.  You can learn about Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! here.   

Posted by:  Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founder and shareholder of The Center for Probate Litigation and http://www.brmmlaw.com/ in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law.  You can email him at blog @ trialandheirs.com.

Excerpt from:
Brooke Astor’s son found guilty

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Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! is now available! Click here for a FREE PREVIEW, or you can buy the book today.

Learn more ABOUT THE BOOK, or read ABOUT THE AUTHORS. If you’re a member of the press, please visit the PRESS & INTERVIEWS page. And don’t forget to sign-up for updates to the right.

Recent ‘Famous Fortune Fight’ blog articles…

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