Archive for the ‘Aging Parents’ Category

Family fight over control of Michael Crichton’s trust

Celebrity estate battles just keep coming.  Here's the UPI article about the latest in a long line of court cases involving dueling heirs of the rich and famous .  Best selling author Michael Crichton (writer of ER and Jurassic Park) left behind a messy estate and trust because he failed to update his estate planning documents to provide for his son, not yet born when he died of cancer at age 66.  I wrote about the problems this caused in a prior article .  Then his estate had to contend with the claim of his wife, Sherri Alexander, who filed paperworking seeking seven million dollars from his estate under a prenuptial agreement she signed with her famous husband in April 2005, before their marriage. But the real fight just began.  A few days ago, Crichton's daughter, Taylor Crichton, filed a petition in the Los Angeles Probate Court to remove Sherri as one of the three trustees of Crichton's trust, claiming she's breached her fiduciary duties. Sherri's attorneys issued a press release to publicly criticize Taylor's legal maneuvering.  They pointed out that it is not a breach of fiduciary duty for someone to serve both as trustee and beneficiary at the same time (which does happen regularly).  The press release also addresses how Sherri filed to allow her son to be included as an heir, despite language of Crichton's will disinheriting any children born after his will was written.  It sure seems like how much the 8-month old baby gets will be one of the central issues fought over in this new legal battle. Fighting over control of estates and trusts doesn't just happen to the wealthy.  In fact, they are partcularly common in second-marriage situations (or fifth-marriage situations like Crichton's).  That's why doing the proper estate planning is extra important for those families. It's crucial for people who are worried about their spouses and children fighting to think long and hard about appointing a neutral trustee and estate executor, to help avoid disputes like this one.  That's just what Senator Ted Kennedy did (as recently revealed when his will was publicized ).  To learn more about Senator Kennedy's choice — and why he should be commended for making it — along with other ways to help your family avoid a fight, keep an eye out for Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!, which is coming out in a few weeks. 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.

Celebrity estate battles just keep coming.  Here's the UPI article about the latest in a long line of court cases involving dueling heirs of the rich and famous.  Best selling author Michael Crichton (writer of ER and Jurassic Park) left behind a messy estate and trust because he failed to update his estate planning documents to provide for his son, not yet born when he died of cancer at age 66.  I wrote about the problems this caused in a prior article

Then his estate had to contend with the claim of his wife, Sherri Alexander, who filed paperworking seeking seven million dollars from his estate under a prenuptial agreement she signed with her famous husband in April 2005, before their marriage.

But the real fight just began.  A few days ago, Crichton's daughter, Taylor Crichton, filed a petition in the Los Angeles Probate Court to remove Sherri as one of the three trustees of Crichton's trust, claiming she's breached her fiduciary duties.

Sherri's attorneys issued a press release to publicly criticize Taylor's legal maneuvering.  They pointed out that it is not a breach of fiduciary duty for someone to serve both as trustee and beneficiary at the same time (which does happen regularly).  The press release also addresses how Sherri filed to allow her son to be included as an heir, despite language of Crichton's will disinheriting any children born after his will was written.  It sure seems like how much the 8-month old baby gets will be one of the central issues fought over in this new legal battle.

Fighting over control of estates and trusts doesn't just happen to the wealthy.  In fact, they are partcularly common in second-marriage situations (or fifth-marriage situations like Crichton's).  That's why doing the proper estate planning is extra important for those families.

It's crucial for people who are worried about their spouses and children fighting to think long and hard about appointing a neutral trustee and estate executor, to help avoid disputes like this one.  That's just what Senator Ted Kennedy did (as recently revealed when his will was publicized). 

To learn more about Senator Kennedy's choice — and why he should be commended for making it — along with other ways to help your family avoid a fight, keep an eye out for Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!, which is coming out in a few weeks.

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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Family fight over control of Michael Crichton’s trust

Brooke Astor verdict aids fight against financial elder abuse

An interesting article came out today by the Associated Press about how professionals who combat financial abuse against seniors can hold up the Brooke Astor verdict to raise awareness of the growing epidemic.  You can read the article here .  Jennifer Peltz, who wrote the article, discusses how advocates against financial exploitation of the elderly hailed the verdict and how it is far from alone.  She points that there have been many other famous cases involving the rich, such as J. Steward Johnson (heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune) and Anna Nicole Smith versus the son of her late 90-year-old billionaire husband.  The really sad part is that this problem affects many more than the wealthy in America.  Indeed, with our country’s troubled economic times, the problem of people stealing from and coercing seniors out of their money is getting worse and worse.  And the best prevention is for families to be proactive and protect their aging loved ones, especially once there is a diagnoses of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. But many people still refuse to think it can happen to their families.  It does!  Trust me, as a probate litigation attorney who sees this happen to real people on a regular basis (and I’m talking about average, middle class families, not just the upper class), I can assure you that every baby boomer with an aging loved one needs to be aware of this problem. Sometimes the crime involves theft or fraud.  Other times it comes in the form of coercing a change to a will or trust.  Often it involves convincing someone to add a new name to a bank account or deed.  But, these acts rarely result in criminal prosecutions.  The Brooke Astor case is very unusual from that standpoint.  It’s up to people, and experienced attorneys, to combat these acts in civil and probate courts because police and prosecutors simply don’t have the resources to take on most of these cases.  Of course, with better prevention, cases like these don’t have to happen at all.  That’s part of the reason I, and my co-author Danielle Mayoras, wrote Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!   Our book helps bring awareness to the issue and educates people about the importance of proper estate planning and avoiding family fighting over money.  We discuss the Brooke Astor, Johnson & Johnson, and Anna Nicole Smith cases (along with dozens more) to help teach families how to protect against having to end up in court after a loved one dies, fighting over money. In fact, the Associated Press article quotes me and mentions Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!  Education and raising awareness is the first step towards prevention.  That’s why celebrity cases like the ones discussed in Trial & Heirs are so important.  They help get people talking. So if you have an elderly loved one, learn about these celebrity court cases, so you can talk to and help educate your family, before it is too late. 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.

An interesting article came out today by the Associated Press about how professionals who combat financial abuse against seniors can hold up the Brooke Astor verdict to raise awareness of the growing epidemic.  You can read the article here

Jennifer Peltz, who wrote the article, discusses how advocates against financial exploitation of the elderly hailed the verdict and how it is far from alone.  She points that there have been many other famous cases involving the rich, such as J. Steward Johnson (heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune) and Anna Nicole Smith versus the son of her late 90-year-old billionaire husband. 

The really sad part is that this problem affects many more than the wealthy in America.  Indeed, with our country’s troubled economic times, the problem of people stealing from and coercing seniors out of their money is getting worse and worse.  And the best prevention is for families to be proactive and protect their aging loved ones, especially once there is a diagnoses of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

But many people still refuse to think it can happen to their families.  It does!  Trust me, as a probate litigation attorney who sees this happen to real people on a regular basis (and I’m talking about average, middle class families, not just the upper class), I can assure you that every baby boomer with an aging loved one needs to be aware of this problem.

Sometimes the crime involves theft or fraud.  Other times it comes in the form of coercing a change to a will or trust.  Often it involves convincing someone to add a new name to a bank account or deed. 

But, these acts rarely result in criminal prosecutions.  The Brooke Astor case is very unusual from that standpoint.  It’s up to people, and experienced attorneys, to combat these acts in civil and probate courts because police and prosecutors simply don’t have the resources to take on most of these cases. 

Of course, with better prevention, cases like these don’t have to happen at all.  That’s part of the reason I, and my co-author Danielle Mayoras, wrote Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! 

Our book helps bring awareness to the issue and educates people about the importance of proper estate planning and avoiding family fighting over money.  We discuss the Brooke Astor, Johnson & Johnson, and Anna Nicole Smith cases (along with dozens more) to help teach families how to protect against having to end up in court after a loved one dies, fighting over money.

In fact, the Associated Press article quotes me and mentions Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!  Education and raising awareness is the first step towards prevention.  That’s why celebrity cases like the ones discussed in Trial & Heirs are so important.  They help get people talking.

So if you have an elderly loved one, learn about these celebrity court cases, so you can talk to and help educate your family, before it is too late.

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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Brooke Astor verdict aids fight against financial elder abuse

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.

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Brooke Astor’s son found guilty

New Book To Help Avoid Celebrity Estate Planning Blunders

“Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!” Explores High-Profile Cases & Offers Expert Advice

New evidence coming in the Michael Jackson Estate case

The Michael Jackson probate dispute between his mother and his two executors has been active since it started this summer.  But it looks like it’s about to really get heated up. For starters, Katherine Jackson, Michael’s mother and a primary beneficiary (along with his children and unnamed charities), has been challenging decisions made by co-executors John Branca and John McClain on a regular basis.  She had asked for, and received, permission from the judge to allow her to challenge them based on conflict of interest and undue influence without jeopardizing her rights as a beneficiary under the “no contest clause” of Jackson’s will and trust. A “no contest clause” is a common provision than many people use in their wills and trusts to discourage family fighting.  It usually says that anyone who files a legal challenge and loses gives up their inheritance.  Katherine Jackson wanted to be free to challenge Branca and McClain without fear of losing her inheritance, and the judge allowed her to do so. So far, her challenge have been limited to objecting to certain decisions they make (such as the many business deals they’ve entered into on behalf of the Jackson Estate) and asking the judge to reduce …

The Michael Jackson probate dispute between his mother and his two executors has been active since it started this summer.  But it looks like it’s about to really get heated up.

For starters, Katherine Jackson, Michael’s mother and a primary beneficiary (along with his children and unnamed charities), has been challenging decisions made by co-executors John Branca and John McClain on a regular basis.  She had asked for, and received, permission from the judge to allow her to challenge them based on conflict of interest and undue influence without jeopardizing her rights as a beneficiary under the “no contest clause” of Jackson’s will and trust.

A “no contest clause” is a common provision than many people use in their wills and trusts to discourage family fighting.  It usually says that anyone who files a legal challenge and loses gives up their inheritance.  Katherine Jackson wanted to be free to challenge Branca and McClain without fear of losing her inheritance, and the judge allowed her to do so.

So far, her challenge have been limited to objecting to certain decisions they make (such as the many business deals they’ve entered into on behalf of the Jackson Estate) and asking the judge to reduce their legal authority.  The judge so far has allowed them to keep control and make decisions, including entering into business deals and deal with creditors without his approval, as long as Katherine didn’t object.  He also recently reiterated that Katherine Jackson is be kept informed.

But it seems this isn’t enough for Katherine.  Instead, she seems ready to ramp up her efforts.  Just a couple days ago, Katherine replaced her legal team with a new attorney, who has handled celebrity probate battles in the Anna Nicole Smith, Marlon Brando and James Brown cases.

One of the other attorneys representing Katherine says that this new probate lawyer was brought in because of “new evidence”.  This evidence must be important, for he also said, “The case is now moving in a different direction”.

So what is the new evidence?  Cnn.com and TMZ both said the new evidence questions the authenticity of Michael Jackson’s signature on the will.  Family members said that he was in New York when the will was supposed to have been signed, meaning he couldn’t possibly have signed it.

What do you think?  You can read Michael Jackson’s will here and see his signature for yourself.

Disputes over celebrity wills, trusts and estates can make for interesting reading.  But they can also be very helpul for those who don’t want their families to end up the same way.  Don’t let your heirs suffer from the same celebrity planning errors that happen time and time again.

Visit TrialAndHeirs.com to learn more how to use these celebrity stories to protect your family.

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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New evidence coming in the Michael Jackson Estate case

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Loading Quotes… 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

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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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Now available for pre-order!

Family Legacy Video and Financial Planning

By Katana Abbott, Certified Fiancial Planner and founder Designated Daughter

Almost 20 years ago, my mother remarried the most wonderful man who changed her life.  It was a marriage made in heaven… 20 years later; they were still in love at 86 and 72. 

Since I was a Certified Financial Planner, when they married, Dale asked me to do a financial plan; he was 72 and my mom was 58.  He created a living trust that gave my mother a life interest, but the principle transferred to his children at his death.  He also purchased life insurance and long term care for both him and my mom.  My mother’s long term care policy was $100/day with a 5% inflation rider and lifetime benefits. 

In the fall of 2005, at 86, Dale was diagnosed with lung cancer.    If we had left things the way he originally set them up, when they were first married, which was the typical joint ownership with rights of survivorship, his children would have been disinherited, my mother would not have had long term care insurance and would have used up all his assets.

Because his estate planning had been in place for years, and reviewed annually, we were able to focus on his quality of life and quality of care that last year. 

During the last three months of his life, Hospice was with us daily, we had moved his bed into the living room, so he could look out at the ducks on the pond.

The week before Dale died; he looked up at me and whispered, “You’re my miracle worker”.  I will never forget his words or the impact his planning has had on his loved ones lives.

He knew that he had done a great job; my mom was set for life and I know he had overheard us talking when we received the call from the insurance company that my mother had been approved for her long term care insurance claim.  She had recently been diagnosed with dementia and the insurance would provide her with up to $150/day for life—with an increasing benefit to keep up with inflation.  This was almost $55,000 a year of additional income that would be tax free.

Between her survivor pension and tax free long term care benefits, my mother was able to move into Sunrise Assisted Living without using any of her investment income.  In addition, we saw that she would probably never need the assets from my step father’s trust, so we made an immediate gift of $100,000 to his children who were just a few years younger than my mother. 

I am so thankful that Dale had agreed to do this planning decades before when they had many options, and were not under stress. 

I was able to play a video that I had taped of my step-father and mother for Dale’s children and grandchildren the Christmas after his death.  He still looked great in the video; the lake and flowers in the background were cheery as my step father told stories about his past, as well as stories about his father and grandfather.

His children may never have known these stories if I had not taped that video that day.  In addition, I came across some wonderful photos of his father and grandfather in northern Michigan working as loggers at the turn of the century.  I will be creating a professional legacy video this year and giving the video and some prints to his family this Christmas. 

I had always wanted to be able to do this for my clients during my 20 years as a financial planner, but I did not have this process in place at the time.

I think passing the story along with the money could help many financial and legal professionals develop a deeper relationship with their clients as well as with the next generation. 

What do you think?  What is your story?  I would love to hear from you!

Visit www.SmartWomensCafe.com for an interactive on-line community featuring  the Designated Daughter Caregiving, Legacy and Aging Experts who work together as a team in the Designated Daughter Tea Room!

How Proper Estate Planning Can Preserve and Protect Assets for Families

What is a Will and How Does a Will Work?

It is more critical than ever with our unpredictable economy that families do the proper estate planning. Otherwise, all of the assets that they worked so long and hard to build and preserve, could be wasted on probate court, taxes, attorneys, long term care costs, and too many other costs to mention. This article will examine how families can preserve the assets that they want to pass on to their loved ones in spite of the threatening economy.

Many people assume that once they execute a will, all of their affairs are in order for when they pass away. It is a myth that a will provides for our future and the security of our loved ones. Nothing can be further from the truth. A will does not provide protection from a lifetime disability. A will only becomes effective when we die and it is given life by the probate court. A WILL IS A GUARANTEE TO PROBATE. The only good thing about probate court is that you
can avoid it. However, a lot of people do not realize the following:

  • every will has to go through probate court if an individual dies with assets in his or her individual name without a co-owner, owned by a trust, or have beneficiary designation;
  • a will is a public document and therefore, anyone can go to the courthouse and look up what someone owned when they passed away and to whom they left their money to;
  • probate court can be a time consuming process;
  • unhappy family members (i.e. individuals that have been disinherited or that have received less money than other beneficiaries) can contest the will; and
  • probate court can be expensive.

Notwithstanding the same, if you have a will and pass away, the Personal Representative of your will must take your will to the appropriate probate court and file it along with all of the accompanying probate paperwork. Sometimes a Personal Representative will have to post a bond. In the event that an “interested party” wants to contest any portion of the will, a hearing will be set. In order to open an estate in probate court, there is a filing fee. In order to close the estate in probate court, an inventory fee must be paid which is calculated on the value of the assets. Under Michigan law, an
estate in probate court can be closed as soon as four months after publication, once the period for creditor objections has expired, but the average probate estate in Michigan takes approximately 1 year from start to finish.

Revocable Living Trust:
What You Need to Know
If you think that a revocable living trust is only for millionaires, you couldn’t be more wrong. Whether you earn $25,000.00 or $1,000,000.00 per year, whether your assets are large or small, a revocable living trust will save you money and increase the value of your estate. A revocable living trust can offer benefits to just about everyone. Do you want to avoid probate court? Minimize estate taxes? Do you need to boost the protected spousal resource allowance for Medicaid? Do you need protection for a disabled child, adult, or relative? Do you want to prevent your beneficiaries
from paying substantial capital gains taxes for appreciated property such as real estate and stocks? Do you want to prevent a “will contest”? Do you want to keep your estate private after you pass away? If your answer to any or all of these questions is “yes”, a revocable living trust may be for you.
A revocable living trust is a trust that you control. You are the trustee, the manager of your living trust, just as you are the manager of your assets now, nothing changes. The “revocable” aspect of a living trust means that you are in control. It means once you create it, you can always change it. You can revoke it or amend all or part of it.
The “living” aspect means that it is created and funded while you are alive and provides for you during your lifetime. If drafted properly, a living trust, in the event of a lifetime disability, can help you avoid the need for a “living probate” (conservatorship) over your assets. This means that you only change title to your property to your name as trustee.
This does not mean that all your assets must be sold and invested in a bank or company. You change only the title. It is that simple.
Remember the agony created at death from an estate that goes through probate court is caused when your name is taken off the title and property is transferred to your heirs. It is costly, time consuming and a matter of public record. In a living trust, title does not change at death, just the name of the trustee changes. There is no delay, minimal cost, no publicity, no probate and if possible, estate taxes are minimized.
A living trust has been praised by our nation’s leading financial planners, and reported in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, Business Week and many other publications.
A revocable living trust offers the following benefits:
• Your assets will not be subject to probate, either during your lifetime, in the event that you become disabled, or once you pass away.
• Your wishes and plans are private. Remember, if you do not have a trust, your assets will most likely be probated upon your death. Probate documents are public records that can be accessed by anyone.
• A revocable living trust is easy to create, change, administer and maintain. You maintain complete control of your assets.
• You can eliminate costly legal and court fees with a living trust. And you don’t have to be rich to enjoy its benefits.
• You maintain complete control of your assets, are able to buy and sell assets as before, and will file the same tax returns.
• Upon your death, your assets can be quickly distributed, if the trust so instructs. Alternatively, your assets can be held in the trust and administered pursuant to your wishes.
• In the event of your disability, the successor trustee will administer the trust for your benefit without needing a conservatorship from the probate court.
• By including special needs provisions you can protect children and adults with a disability from losing their governmental benefits such as Medicaid and SSI while still providing for their special needs.
• A revocable living trust is difficult to contest and can contain a provision that should a beneficiary contest the provisions of the trust, he or she will be disinherited.
• A married couple establishing separate revocable living trusts with estate tax provisions can be used to minimize estate taxes.
• A revocable living trust provides the caregiver spouse the opportunity to protect and preserve assets in the event that they predecease their disabled spouse.
• The distribution of a living trust is limited to one’s imagination. You can include provisions: that match a beneficiary’s income, provide for retirement, test for drugs, provide for a down payment to purchase a home or for an accredited education.
A revocable living trust offers many benefits that a will and joint ownership of assets do not. Oftentimes, a revocable living trust is the best type of estate planning.

Pitfalls of Joint Ownership
You may have heard of the terms “joint tenants with right of survivorship,” “tenants in common,” or “tenants by the entireties.” All of these are forms of what is known as “joint tenancy.” Joint tenancy means that more than one person owns the property. Many people own property together with someone else, such as a spouse or child, often believing that upon the death of one, the other will take immediate ownership of the property without the probate court. Joint ownership is generally not the best method of passing your property to your heirs and often results in many pitfalls.
However, effective estate planning, including a living trust, can overcome the pitfalls and avoid the intervention of the courts. If you add a person to the title of your assets, you will become partners with their life problems. If a child or other joint owner has creditor problems, such as a divorce or a lawsuit, the child’s creditors can legally come after the parents’ money and assets when the child is a joint owner. Also, if a child refuses to allow the parents to sell an asset, which requires the signature of all owners, such as real estate or stocks, the parent would be unable to access the equity in
those assets. In addition, if a child becomes disabled, the parents may not be able to sell their assets unless they obtain a conservatorship over their child, allowing the parent to legally handle the child’s financial affairs and to sign legal documents on behalf of the child. Finally, children will, most likely, be required to pay capital gains taxes upon the parents’ death in addition to any estate taxes that may be due. Joint ownership may avoid probate court, but ultimately,
more taxes may be paid!

Many people think, “How simple. I will just put my child’s name on this property and my beneficiaries will avoid all of the hassles of probate court upon my death. That way, I do not need to worry about a will.” Sometimes, it is advisable to title some or all of one’s property jointly with another. Frequently, however, it can cause an unexpected disaster. The manner in which you hold title to property needs to be carefully considered and designed as a part of your overall estate
planning goals. There are a variety of risks or pitfalls that can arise through joint property ownership.
Also, there is also a common belief that by adding a child’s name to a parent’s assets that it can be protected from Medicaid and the nursing home, which in most cases is untrue. Using a will or trust avoids the problems described above and for most families is more advantageous than the joint
ownership of assets.

Medical and End of Life Decisions
(Durable power of attorney for Health care)
How many of us plan for a lifetime disability? Leaving your planning to chance and unforeseen circumstances will only breed disaster. If you are unable to make your own medical decisions who will do so for you? Chances are that we will all suffer a debilitating illness such as Alzheimer’s or dementia or physical illness, before we die. Many of us have heard the term “living will” as the name of a document used to address our life support wishes. In Michigan, however, under our state statutory laws, we must use something called a “patient advocate” as living wills are not valid
in Michigan. A patient advocate is a document in which you appoint an individual to make your end-of-life decisions, in the event that you become unable to make these decisions yourself and a living will is a general statement of your end of life wishes.
Did you know that if you do become incapacitated you will become subject to a LIVING PROBATE? A probate proceeding for your health care and personal decisions is called a guardianship. It is a common misunderstanding to believe that your spouse, child or relative can act for you during a disability. The truth is, if you cannot make your own decisions or sign your name, a court will.

Guardianship is a drastic remedy, a cannon used to swat a fly.”
Frankly, a Guardianship is not necessary. In fact, the probate court process is optional. It is your choice. Everyone over the age of 18 can avoid a guardianship by creating a comprehensive patient advocate, more commonly known as a durable power of attorney for health care. The word “durable” means that it is different from an ordinary power of attorney in that it is not affected by incapacity. Once you grant a durable power of attorney, as long as you are competent you can revoke it. The only time a durable power of attorney terminates is upon death, voluntary revocation
or by Court order. Simply put, a durable power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to delegate your personal health care responsibilities to an agent.
A proper patient advocate should cover all possible situations. Specifically your patient advocate should address end of life, everyday medical and mental health decisions. You also want to make sure that your patient advocate contains upto-date provisions. Michigan and the Congress has passed several new laws, such as the Do-Not-Resuscitate, Hospice Care, and HIPAA (medical privacy) laws, which may not be reflected in Patient advocates that were prepared prior to
2002.
As elder law attorneys, we draft medical durable powers of attorneys to address end of life and mental health decisions when one is unable to participate in their decisions (is incapacitated). However, in light of federal privacy acts such as HIPAA and the need to be involved in one’s care before a crisis we address day to day medical decisions to be effective immediately. We cannot stress the importance of this oversight by most attorneys!
Estate Planning is more important than ever with our unstable economy. Families who do the proper planning will be able to preserve more money in a time where every dollar counts more than ever.

Please contact Danielle Mayoras for additional information or questions at dmayoras@brmmlaw.com or 1-877-PLAN-758.

You can also visit:

www.TheCenterForElderLaw.com, www.TheCenterForSpecialNeedsPlanning.com,
www.TheCenterforProbateLitigation.com and subscribe to our bi-monthly e-letter, The
Insight: News, Stories, and Thoughts on Elder, Special Needs, and Probate Law.

Reprinted from Alzheimer’s Disease & Related Dementias: a Guidebook for Care, Comfort, Legal
and Financial Security.

How Special Needs Individuals Can Afford Long Term Care Costs with Our Current Economy

By: Danielle B. Mayoras & Matthew L. Joswick

A lot of articles explore Special Needs Trusts and the wonderful benefits that they provide to both parents and individuals with special needs who are on government benefits. When a parent leaves an inheritance over $2,000 to an individual with special needs, the inheritance is actually a gift to the government because it eliminates that child’s qualification for government benefits.

The use of a Special Needs Trust eliminates this disqualification because the inheritance is not left to the special needs individual, but rather to his or her trust. As a result, the individual maintains his or her government benefits and receives an inheritance. These trusts provide peace of mind to the
parents and an additional fund for the individual with special needs. The Special Needs Trust answers questions, such as follows:
Who will look after my loved one with special needs when I pass away?
How will my loved one’s extras be paid after I pass away?

This article, however, goes beyond the basic Special Needs Trust and also focuses on the planning for an individual with special needs from mid life and beyond. In addition to the general concerns that parents of special needs children have, parents also worry about the long term care costs of their special needs loved ones. Specifically, what if the individual with special needs outlives his or her parent and needs long term care? What if the parents are not around to provide the long term care? How will the long term care costs be paid?

The statistics show that it is likely that an individual with special needs will require some type of long term care. They are currently 1.2 million disabled Medicaid enrollees either receiving acute care or long term care. There are several different long term care options including home care, assisted living, adult foster care, and nursing homes.
Each of these will be addressed separately below.

Home care is health and supportive care provided to an individual in their own home by a licensed medical professional. The advantages of home care are obvious – your loved one receives care in the comfort of their own home. This ensures more privacy for your special needs loved one and also allows the family to better monitor the quality of health care that their special needs loved one is receiving.
Assisted living facilities are a middle ground between home care and nursing home care. Typically residents of assisted living facilities require help with their activities of daily living, but do not need skilled nursing home care.
The advantages of receiving care in an assisted living facility are clear – the environment is more residential and less restrictive with a greater emphasis on privacy and autonomy.
With the average hourly rate for home care at $19.18 per hour, and the average cost of assisted living at nearly $40,000.00 per year, receiving care in these environments will be cost prohibitive for most families. Some long term care alternatives to these high costs are Adult Foster Care and nursing homes.
Adult Foster Care (AFC) is a licensed, sheltered living arrangement for adults with special needs who are unable to live alone. AFC homes provide five basic services: room, board, supervision, protection, and household services (laundry, cleaning, etc). Additionally, adult foster care homes may provide the following services:
1. Assistance with dressing, personal hygiene, and/or eating;
2. Transportation to appointments, senior centers, shopping, or activities;
3. Medication reminders of administration; and
4. Assistance with money management.
Typically there is a minimum room and board payment made to providers per month, which is set by the State. This amount is typically equal to the monthly income that the adult with special needs receives in governmental benefits.
Adult foster care may be a cost-effective alternative to nursing homes or larger assisted-living facilities. For many special needs individuals who need long term care, Adult Foster Care is appropriate medically and financially is a good long term care option as well.
On the other hand, nursing care facilities are places of residence for people who require constant care and assistance with their activities of daily living. Residents include both the elderly and individuals with special needs. The numbers are startling – the average cost of nursing home care in the United States exceeds $77,000.00 per year and is expected to reach $190,000 per year in 2030. Furthermore, almost 56% of nursing home residents spend at least one year in the nursing home, with another almost 26% spending at least three years in the nursing home. Many parents
wonder how their special needs loved one will be able to afford it.
One way is to qualify your adult child with special needs for Medicaid. Medicaid is a state administered program that pays for long term care costs if certain eligibility requirements are met. Although this is a Federal program, each state has its own guidelines regarding eligibility and services. Therefore, it is critical to consult with a special needs attorney who is familiar with the specialized Medicaid laws in the state where your loved one resides.
Certain requirements must be met to qualify for Medicaid. These may include your age, whether you are disabled, blind, or aged; your income and resources; whether you are a United States citizen or a lawfully admitted immigrant.
The rules for counting your income and resources vary from state to state and from group to group. There are special rules for those who live in nursing homes and for disabled children living at home.
A single individual who resides in a nursing home may own certain assets, which Medicaid views as exempt assets, and still qualify for Medicaid. For example, in the State of Michigan, those exempt assets for Medicaid eligibility are as follows:
1. Home (with certain restrictions);
2. Car;
3. Personal Property;
4. Burial Blot and Burial Space items;
5. Funeral Contract worth up to $11,072.00;
6. Life Insurance with face value of $1,500.00;
7. $2,000 in cash assets;
8. Assets that are in a Special Needs Trust, an OBRA Trust or a Pooled Income Trust; and
9. Immediate Annuity.
All other assets are countable and an adult child with special needs will not be Medicaid eligible until those assets are spent down or converted into one of the above exempt assets.
You can ensure that your child with special needs qualifies for Medicaid upon your death by planning ahead. By completing a full estate plan, parents are able to place the adult child=s portion of their inheritance into a Special Needs Trust. This trust allows the adult child to maintain government benefits as the Trust is an exempt asset under Medicaid guidelines. When the parents create their own estate plan, their revocable living trust will provide the inheritance, for the benefit of their special needs child, be funneled into the Special Needs Trust
The Special Needs Trust has a trustee, who is responsible for administering the trust and ensuring that the adult child’s needs are met. Assets in a trust of this nature are not countable and in the event that the child requires long term care and needs to qualify for Medicaid, these trust assets will be preserved for the adult child=s benefit. A trust of this nature can be used for most any item the adult child may need with the exception of food and shelter. For example, the trustee can purchase clothing, an automobile, electronic equipment, furniture, fitness equipment, funeral expenses, vacation and travel costs, vocational programs, therapy, personal care items and much more. The
trustee can also use the funds from the trust for non-reimbursed medical expenses.
While government agencies recognize Special Needs Trusts, there are strict rules and it is critical that you work with an experienced special needs attorney to draft the Trust. We have reviewed countless Special Needs Trusts that do not comply with Social Security Insurance and Medicaid Rules. If the funds are used for food or shelter, however, then there is the potential that the adult child=s governmental benefits may be reduced or eliminated. With respect to shelter, your child can use the money to purchase a home, but cannot use the money for rent. In fact, one wrong
word or phrase can make the difference between an inheritance that benefits your child and one that causes your child to lose the many services, assistance, and benefits available.
In the event that the parents pass away without having the proper estate planning in place, there are still planning strategies that can be implemented to preserve the inheritance of the adult child with special needs allowing the adult child to maintain or qualify for government benefits. The inheritance can be placed into an OBRA Disability Payback Trust or into a Pooled Income Trust. These trusts provide the same protections as the above discussed special needs trust with one important difference – both of these trusts have a provision that require the assets to be used for specific purposes after the death of the adult child with special needs. The OBRA Trust requires that in the event there are any funds remaining in the trust at the death of the adult child with special needs, Medicaid is paid back for any services rendered up to the full amount of assets in the trust. The Pooled Income Trust, which is run by a non profit organization, requires that the organization be the remainder beneficiary of the trust.
Something else to keep in mind is the possibility of your special needs loved one executing Durable Powers of Attorney. If your adult child with special needs is competent, then he or she can execute Durable Powers of Attorney. There are two types of Durable Power of Attorney: Financial Durable Power of Attorney and Medical Durable Power of Attorney/Patient Advocate Designation. By executing a Financial Durable Power of Attorney, your child appoints an attorney-in-fact to handle his or her financial affairs in the event that he or she is physically or mentally unable to do so. For example, this may include banking, real estate, signing tax returns, hiring and firing agents, and commencing litigation.
The Medical Durable Power of Attorney/Patient Advocate Designation addresses all of your loved one’s medical decisions including, residential placement, surgery and treatment, and daily medical decisions. If your adult child with special needs is able to execute Durable Powers of Attorney, this will generally eliminate the need to go through the probate court system to obtain a guardianship or conservatorship. These documents cannot be executed by your child until he or she is an adult and is 18 years of age. As probate court can be expensive (legal fees and court costs), burdensome (annual report requirements and multiple trips to court), and time consuming, it is highly
advisable that if your adult child with special needs has the requisite capacity to execute legal documents that they do so. Most importantly, he or she would be able to maintain control of his or her financial and medical decisions.
We know that every parent’s greatest worry is what will happen to their special needs loved one after they are gone. With the proper planning, there are government programs that can ensure that your adult child with special needs receives long term care after you are gone and receives an inheritance from you that does not disqualify them from government benefits. Estate planning is always important to do; however, when one of the beneficiaries is a special needs loved one, the planning becomes critical.

Please contact Danielle Mayoras for additional information or questions at dmayoras@brmmlaw.com or 1-877-PLAN-758.

You can also visit:

www.TheCenterForElderLaw.com, www.TheCenterForSpecialNeedsPlanning.com, www.TheCenterforProbateLitigation.com and subscribe to our bi-monthly e-letter, The Insight: News, Stories, and Thoughts on Elder, Special Needs, and Probate Law.

Reprinted from Alzheimer’s Disease & Related Dementias: a Guidebook for Care, Comfort,

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