Archive for the ‘designated daughter’ Category

Forbes Interviews Andrew and Danielle!

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Forbes Interviews Andrew and Danielle!

Shipping December 1st!

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Shipping December 1st!

Farrah Fawcett’s Trust provides a good lesson

It’s been widely reported across various websites in the last couple days that Farrah Fawcett’s will has been revealed and it “shockingly” disinherited her longtime ex-boyfriend Ryan O’Neal (father to her son, Redmond).  These reports are wrong on several levels. First, the document was her Trust, not her will.  You can read it here , courtesy of Radaronline.com.  This is an important distinction.  Wills are public records and must always be filed in probate to be effective, which allows anyone interested to read them.  Trusts, on the other hand, are private documents, normally kept out of court and the public eye. As I wrote in this article this past July, the contents of Fawcett’s Trust were leaked by an anonymous “source” then, and now the whole trust document has been revealed.  This is unusual.  Normally that is one of the primary reasons why trusts are used, to keep affairs private (and out of probate court). As the source previously leaked to the media (and as covered in my article on this blog in July), it was  revealed then that Ryan O’Neal was not a beneficiary.  So the recent exposure of the trust document is nothing new on that front.  O’Neal said publicly that he was not surprised and had discussed with Fawcett that their son Redmond would be the biggest beneficiary. So what did the trust reveal?  The real surprising part here isn’t that O’Neal was omitted (ex-boyfriends aren’t usually included in a trust).  Rather, to me…

It’s been widely reported across various websites in the last couple days that Farrah Fawcett’s will has been revealed and it “shockingly” disinherited her longtime ex-boyfriend Ryan O’Neal (father to her son, Redmond).  These reports are wrong on several levels.
First, the document was her Trust, not her will.  You can read it here, courtesy of Radaronline.com.  This is an important distinction.  Wills are public records and must always be filed in probate to be effective, which allows anyone interested to read them.  Trusts, on the other hand, are private documents, normally kept out of court and the public eye.

As I wrote in this article this past July, the contents of Fawcett’s Trust were leaked by an anonymous “source” then, and now the whole trust document has been revealed.  This is unusual.  Normally that is one of the primary reasons why trusts are used, to keep affairs private (and out of probate court).

As the source previously leaked to the media (and as covered in my article on this blog in July), it was  revealed then that Ryan O’Neal was not a beneficiary.  So the recent exposure of the trust document is nothing new on that front.  O’Neal said publicly that he was not surprised and had discussed with Fawcett that their son Redmond would be the biggest beneficiary.

So what did the trust reveal?  The real surprising part here isn’t that O’Neal was omitted (ex-boyfriends aren’t usually included in a trust).  Rather, to me, there were far more surprising elements, including that another of Fawcett’s ex-boyfriends, Gregory Lawrence Lott, received $100,000.  Further, her artwork was left to the University of Texas, her other personal property, including her household furnishings and vehicles, went to her nephew (who also received $500,000 outright), and her father received a trust fund of $500,000, from will benefit him while he is alive.  Fawcett’s charitable foundation is also a prominent beneficiary.

Who will manage this trust?  Fawcett’s business manager and producer, Richard Francis.  He will be charged with the difficult task of overseeing these bequests — and more importantly — the trust fund established for Fawcett’s troubled son, Redmond.

It has been widely reported that Redmond has struggled with drug addiction for years.  Fawcett obviously knew this when she created this particular trust document on August 9, 2007.  So, instead of leaving him money outright, she left $4.5 million to be used for his benefit through a trust fund.  When he passes away, what is left from that fund will go onto her charitable foundation.

The specifics of how this will work are a good lesson for others to follow when they have a beneficiary who is not ready to receive a chunk of change all at once.  The trustee of the Trust, Francis, will be required to pay the income from the trust fund to Redmond — or apply it for his benefit — at least 4 times year, and as often as monthly.  If this $4.5 million is conservatively invested to generate even a modest 5% return, this would mean almost $19,000 per month would be available for Redmond, without ever spending any of the $4.5 million itself.

Francis can also tap into the $4.5 million itself for Redmond, but only to the extent it is advisable for his health.  This means the money (again, other than the interest earned) cannot be used for things like education, housing, etc. — only health.  Clearly, Fawcett thought this through, because she gave the same trustee rights to use the trust fund money set aside for Fawcett’s father for many other needs beyond just health.

This trust provision allows Francis to carefully control the money so Redmond is benefited the best way possible.  And, for a drug addict like he is reported to be, this means Francis can spend as much as he deems advisable for rehabilitation (which would clearly improve Redmond’s health), without paying anything directly to him for fear of it being spent on drugs, etc.

The only flaw I see in the plan is that Francis is obligated to pay the interest on Redmond’s behalf at least 4 times each year.  This is still quite a significant sum of money to be spent on him, if his life isn’t in a position to benefit by it.  Plus, it is odd that things like education and housing wouldn’t be included, but that appears to be what Fawcett wanted.

Often, in my law firm, we recommend crafting specific trust provisions for people with drug and/or alcohol addictions that requires them to prove sobriety before receiving money, or tying other specific strings to distributions of money so that this goal can be achieved (such as requiring payments for drug rehabilitation programs).

The beauty of properly-used trusts is that you can be creative and use conditions like this for all sorts of reasons, in addition to sobriety, including promoting hard work, maintaining good relationships, education, and many other goals.  We explore how trusts can do this in our book, Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!, which helps families learn from celebrity errors how to properly plan for their heirs.

Fawcett gets a lot of credit for using a trust the right way to protect her son and still allow him to benefit from her money.  Too many rich and famous people don’t do this.  For example, as we discuss in Trial & Heirs, celebrities such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Jimi Hendrix, Sonny Bono, and Howard Hughes didn’t even have wills, much less trusts.

Trusts are not just for rich people.  Anyone with family members they want to leave money to when they die, but are worried what the money may do to them when they get it, should strongly consider creating a revocable living trust with the help of a good estate planning attorney.

Not sure how to find a good attorney?  Click here for a new way to help you.

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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Farrah Fawcett’s Trust provides a good lesson

Bo Schembechler’s son sues his stepmom over trust

Glenn E. “Bo” Schembechler, Jr., is one of the most respected names in the history of college football.  And, no, I’m not saying that just because I graduated from the University of Michigan (twice).  He built one of the most successful football programs around, and it excelled for decades. Coach Bo died of heart disease on November 17, 2006, at age 77.

He was survived by his second wife, Kathryn, his son, Glenn III, and two children of his beloved first wife, Millie, whom Bo had adopted (a third adopted son died before him). From an estate planning perspective, Bo did everything right to avoid a family fight after he passed.  He created a living trust, which was quite detailed and left the income from his assets to his wife, Kathryn, passing from there to his son Glenn III (known as “Shemy”), and then onto his grandchildren and Kathryn’s grandchildren.  He chose Kathryn as his successor trustee to manage his trust after he passed.

As part of this responsibility, Kathryn was required to furnish reports four times each year to Bo’s son, Shemy.  Recently, Shemy sued Kathryn in federal court in Columbus, Ohio (home to the school which was Bo’s chief rival, which shall remain nameless here).  Shemy alleged she hadn’t furnished the reports as required by the trust and Ohio law.   It appears, according to Shemy’s attorneys, that Kathryn hasn’t shared any financial information with him since Bo died almost three years ago.  The lawsuit includes a letter written  football programs around, and it excelled for decades.

Coach Bo died of heart disease on November 17, 2006, at age 77.  He was survived by his second wife, Kathryn, his son, Glenn III, and two children of his beloved first wife, Millie, whom Bo had adopted (a third adopted son died before him).

Continued here: Bo Schembechler’s son sues his stepmom over trust

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.

Katherine Jackson’s shocking change of heart

The Michael Jackson Estate has been the subject of regular court hearings as Katherine Jackson battled for control over the last several months.  She routinely objected to the decisions of the co-executors John Branca and John McClain.  Recently, she hired a new attorney with the promise of taking the case in a new direction, as I discussed in this recent article about the Michael Jackson case .

Her case took a new direction, all right.  She decided to drop her claim.  That’s right, she stopped fighting and agreed to let the executors run the show without her. Surprised?  I was.  And I was far from the only one.  Here’s what a lawyer in the case said about Katherine Jackson’s change of heart, according to CNN: “She has now reneged on her obligation to her family.”  This same lawyer then said that it was “one of the most despicable displays” he’d ever seen in court.  He even accused Katherine of colluding with the estate executors in a “secret deal”. So who was this attorney representing?  None other than Joe Jackson — Katherine’s husband of 60 years.  Granted, they don’t live together, but obviously, he was taken aback about what happened. And Joe and his attorney

Read rest at: Katherine Jackson’s shocking change of heart

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.

Leona Helmsley charity battle rages on

As I described in this article from February 2009 , the trustees of the Leona Helmsley charitable trust asked the probate court in New York for permission to donate primarily to charities that helped people rather than dogs, despite some language in the trust that suggested she wanted her billions to benefits animal charities.

Specifically, the trust had a Mission Statement that included, as its first purpose “the provision of the care for dogs”.  But it also gave the trustees discretion to benefit charities as they saw fit.  This is a very important decisions for many charities (not to mention the people or animals they help) because we’re talking about several billion dollars.

This August, several different animal charities, including the Humane Society and American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, launched a legal challenge to the judge’s ruling to force the trustees to support animal charities.  Reportedly, the trustees so far have donated very little to help dogs. There was a big question whether these charities even had proper “standing” to bring this action (meaning whether or not they had the legal ability to challenge the judge’s ruling even though they were not named beneficiaries).  So far, their challenge has been allowed to proceed. In fact, a couple weeks ago,

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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.

Ike Turner Will Contest Ruling is in

The trial involving whether Rock ‘n Roll pioneer & legend, Ike Turner, left a valid will has ended.  As described in this prior article I wrote, the case pitted his six children (two of whom apparently are now questionable children of his) versus his ex-wife versus his friend and “sometime” attorney.  I’m not exactly sure why someone would be a “sometime” attorney, but that’s how he was described in this North County Times (California) article about the trial. The children argued Ike died without a valid will, leaving all to them under California’s intestate laws.  The ex-wife, Audrey Madison Turner, felt that Ike had left everything to her through a handwritten will written two months before he died of a drug overdose in 2007 (even though the couple was already divorced). The “sometime” attorney believed a prior handwritten will in 2001 left him in control of Ike’s legacy.  What was that legacy?  While it appeared the estate was cash-poor, the victor would receive the rights to own and profit from some 4000 songs.  That’s a lot of notes! A few days ago, the judge issued his decision.  He ruled that both wills may have been valid, but a later note written by Ike Turner had revoked the last will, which in turn had revoked the 2001 will.  This meant the children were the big winners . . . at least so far. The judge also granted all of the combatants a chance to appear in front of him again to try to change his mind.  This is a rare step, especially given his first ruling came through a 16-page decision, issued two weeks after the trial ended.  In other words, this was far from a snap decision, which means the likelihood of him changing his mind would be minimal. So, while we can’t declare a final winner yet, the children surely had a good time celebrating this Halloween weekend.  Of course, regardless of what happens after the next court hearing, there is likely to be an appeal.  The losing side almost always appeals after trials like these.  There are too many emotions at stake (not to mention dollars) to go away quietly. Too bad Ike wasn’t better about documenting his wishes and avoiding a family fight.  For some reason, court fights among heirs to famous musicians are common.  Just ask the families of Michael Jackson, James Brown, Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia, and Whitney Houston (wait — she’s not dead yet, but she is involved in a fight over what her late father’s true wishes were). All of these stories, and many more, are covered in the new book Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!, co-written by Andrew & Danielle Mayoras.  We use these stories to help make sure your family won’t end up the same way.  We also teach you what to do (and not do) if you’re already in a fight. It’s available at TrialAndHeirs.com . 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 trial involving whether Rock ‘n Roll pioneer & legend, Ike Turner, left a valid will has ended.  As described in this prior article I wrote, the case pitted his six children (two of whom apparently are now questionable children of his) versus his ex-wife versus his friend and “sometime” attorney.  I’m not exactly sure why someone would be a “sometime” attorney, but that’s how he was described in this North County Times (California) article about the trial.

The children argued Ike died without a valid will, leaving all to them under California’s intestate laws.  The ex-wife, Audrey Madison Turner, felt that Ike had left everything to her through a handwritten will written two months before he died of a drug overdose in 2007 (even though the couple was already divorced).

The “sometime” attorney believed a prior handwritten will in 2001 left him in control of Ike’s legacy.  What was that legacy?  While it appeared the estate was cash-poor, the victor would receive the rights to own and profit from some 4000 songs.  That’s a lot of notes!

A few days ago, the judge issued his decision.  He ruled that both wills may have been valid, but a later note written by Ike Turner had revoked the last will, which in turn had revoked the 2001 will.  This meant the children were the big winners . . . at least so far.

The judge also granted all of the combatants a chance to appear in front of him again to try to change his mind.  This is a rare step, especially given his first ruling came through a 16-page decision, issued two weeks after the trial ended.  In other words, this was far from a snap decision, which means the likelihood of him changing his mind would be minimal.

So, while we can’t declare a final winner yet, the children surely had a good time celebrating this Halloween weekend.  Of course, regardless of what happens after the next court hearing, there is likely to be an appeal.  The losing side almost always appeals after trials like these.  There are too many emotions at stake (not to mention dollars) to go away quietly.

Too bad Ike wasn’t better about documenting his wishes and avoiding a family fight.  For some reason, court fights among heirs to famous musicians are common.  Just ask the families of Michael Jackson, James Brown, Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia, and Whitney Houston (wait — she’s not dead yet, but she is involved in a fight over what her late father’s true wishes were).

All of these stories, and many more, are covered in the new book Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!, co-written by Andrew & Danielle Mayoras.  We use these stories to help make sure your family won’t end up the same way.  We also teach you what to do (and not do) if you’re already in a fight.

It’s available at TrialAndHeirs.com.

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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Ike Turner Will Contest Ruling is in

FBI investigated Anna Nicole Smith for murder of “step-son”

Probate disputes over whether a will or trust was valid, or instead was signed at at time when the person was mentally incompetent or subject to undue influence, are common.  They’re also very emotional and difficult for everyone involved.  The Anna Nicole Smith case – the Granddaddy of all probate disputes — illustrates this more than any other. I discussed the case in this article , including how the estate executor/lawyer/former boyfriend, Howard K. Stern, not only lost a request he filed in the federal Court of Appeals on behalf of Smith’s Estate, but how he was charged criminally with conspiring to provide Anna Nicole with the prescription drugs that killed her. In Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights, which I wrote with Danielle Mayoras, we discuss the case at length (along with dozens more) so people can learn from celebrity errors, protect their heirs, and know their legal rights if they find themselves in a family fortune fight. But a new twist on the case surfaced recently.  While this development did not affect the case itself, and turned out to be nothing important in the end, it highlights how difficult these cases can get for those going through them.  And yes, not just the rich and famous! The Associated Press submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI and received hundreds of pages of documents that revealed how the FBI investigated Anna Nicole in 2000 and 2001 as a suspect in a murder plot against her late husband’s son.  She and the son had been fighting over the multi-billion dollar estate of Anna Nicole’s 90-year old husband since he died in 1995.  The FBI suspected she may have hired a hit-man to commit murder! The FBI questioned Smith in July, 2000, during which she tearfully denied any such plot.  She said she thought the probate case was almost over, and even if her “step-son” had died, the Howard Marshall fortune still would have been tied up in trusts and wouldn’t have gone to her. The step-son, Pierce Marshall, was also interviewed and claimed that Anna Nicole rarely spent time with her husband before he died, and how Pierce’s father had complained to him that she asked for $50,000 or more twice a week. The FBI took the investigation seriously.  The investigation lasted at least 10 months.  FBI agents even confiscated from Anna Nicole a .357 revolver, a 3 and 1/2 inch steel knife, and a black and orange “Dr. Suess” hat (your guess is as good as mine on that last one). The FBI returned these items to her and closed the case in 2001.  It found insufficient evidence that she engaged in a murder-for-hire scheme to kill Marshall’s son.  Pierce Marshall died from an infection in 2006 at age 67, the year before Anna Nicole Smith died from a drug overdose. Yet the fight over Howard Marshall’s money is not over, even though it started 14 years ago.  Even in death, the two are battling — but now, their estates are duking it out. You can order a copy of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! at TrialAndHeirs.com if you’d like to learn more about this case and many other celebrity estate battles, so your family won’t end up the same way. 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.

Probate disputes over whether a will or trust was valid, or instead was signed at at time when the person was mentally incompetent or subject to undue influence, are common.  They’re also very emotional and difficult for everyone involved.  The Anna Nicole Smith case – the Granddaddy of all probate disputes — illustrates this more than any other.

I discussed the case in this article, including how the estate executor/lawyer/former boyfriend, Howard K. Stern, not only lost a request he filed in the federal Court of Appeals on behalf of Smith’s Estate, but how he was charged criminally with conspiring to provide Anna Nicole with the prescription drugs that killed her.

In Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights, which I wrote with Danielle Mayoras, we discuss the case at length (along with dozens more) so people can learn from celebrity errors, protect their heirs, and know their legal rights if they find themselves in a family fortune fight.

But a new twist on the case surfaced recently.  While this development did not affect the case itself, and turned out to be nothing important in the end, it highlights how difficult these cases can get for those going through them.  And yes, not just the rich and famous!

The Associated Press submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI and received hundreds of pages of documents that revealed how the FBI investigated Anna Nicole in 2000 and 2001 as a suspect in a murder plot against her late husband’s son.  She and the son had been fighting over the multi-billion dollar estate of Anna Nicole’s 90-year old husband since he died in 1995.  The FBI suspected she may have hired a hit-man to commit murder!

The FBI questioned Smith in July, 2000, during which she tearfully denied any such plot.  She said she thought the probate case was almost over, and even if her “step-son” had died, the Howard Marshall fortune still would have been tied up in trusts and wouldn’t have gone to her.

The step-son, Pierce Marshall, was also interviewed and claimed that Anna Nicole rarely spent time with her husband before he died, and how Pierce’s father had complained to him that she asked for $50,000 or more twice a week.

The FBI took the investigation seriously.  The investigation lasted at least 10 months.  FBI agents even confiscated from Anna Nicole a .357 revolver, a 3 and 1/2 inch steel knife, and a black and orange “Dr. Suess” hat (your guess is as good as mine on that last one).

The FBI returned these items to her and closed the case in 2001.  It found insufficient evidence that she engaged in a murder-for-hire scheme to kill Marshall’s son.  Pierce Marshall died from an infection in 2006 at age 67, the year before Anna Nicole Smith died from a drug overdose.

Yet the fight over Howard Marshall’s money is not over, even though it started 14 years ago.  Even in death, the two are battling — but now, their estates are duking it out.

You can order a copy of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! at TrialAndHeirs.com if you’d like to learn more about this case and many other celebrity estate battles, so your family won’t end up the same way.

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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FBI investigated Anna Nicole Smith for murder of “step-son”

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

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