Posts Tagged ‘famous-fortune’

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.

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”

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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