Epic Celebrity Estate Planning Failures

Nearly everyone over a “certain age” has personally or vicariously experienced an estate planning failure of one kind or other.   Chances are you know someone who died without a will or trust or with a poorly written one that ended up pitting heirs against each other and breaking the family apart.  Perhaps you know someone who inherited a lot of money and spent it all in short order, ending up nearly destitute.

Would you be surprised to learn that so-called “celebrities” are not immune to failure-to-plan syndrome?  Check out these epic estate planning failures:

Sonny Bono

Sonny Bono’s Procrastination in Creating a Will Led to Years of Estate Battles

Sonny Bono, the singer, songwriter, restauranteur, and former Congressman, died in a tragic ski accident in 1998 at the age of 62. His net worth was just under $2 million at the time of his death, yet Bono did not have a will. Apparently, he meant to have one drawn up, but simply never got around to it.

Sadly, his fourth wife and surviving spouse, former Representative Mary Bono, spent years battling to be the executor of his estate. She also faced lawsuits filed by anyone and everyone who wanted a piece of the pie – some of whom you wouldn’t believe…

Cher & Secret Love Child Want Piece of Sonny’s Estate

Having died intestate (without a will), Sonny Bono’s estate was seemingly up for grabs. His surviving spouse had to specifically fend off two people whose demands on the estate made headlines:

  • Cher. Yes, THE Cher, Sonny’s second wife, sued for a share of his estate seeking $1.6 million in unpaid alimony. When the couple divorced in 1974, Sonny was allegedly ordered to pay Cher $25,000 per month for six months, $1,500 per month child support, and $41,000 in attorneys’ fees.  Apparently, he never did. While it’s odd that someone with their own net worth of over $300 million would even bother taking the time, it’s nonetheless true. Whether she collected is anyone’s guess, but not likely.
  •  Secret Love Child. As if Cher’s lawsuit wasn’t odd enough, a secret love child made his own claim on Sonny’s estate. Then 35-year-old Sean Machu came forward claiming to be Bono’s illegitimate son. Although Bono admitted to having an affair with Machu’s mother in his autobiography, The Beat Goes On, and Machu’s birth certificate lists Salvatore Bono (aka Sonny) as the father, Machu later withdrew the lawsuit when a DNA test was required. Bono’s estate was eventually divided between his surviving spouse and his two children, Chastity (now Chaz) Bono and Christy Bono Fasce (a child from his first marriage).

Don’t Leave Your Wealth Up For Grabs – Take Action Now!

As Sonny Bono’s case shows, not having a will, trust, or other estate planning documents in place gives others the sense that your wealth is up for grabs.  Most of us don’t relish the idea of creating a plan for what will happen when we die.  However, it’s a necessity in order to avoid having your spouse and children go through court battles and heartache.

It’s imperative that you take action now.  We has the tools you need to put your estate plan into place so that procrastination is not an issue.  Wouldn’t it feel good to know that you’ve done the right thing for your family?

 

Marlon Brando

The Perils of Promises…Marlon Brando’s Story

Legendary Oscar-winning actor Marlon Brando left the bulk of his estate (worth approximately $26 million) to his producer and other associates.

Brando created a valid last will and testament. However, he did not include his longtime housekeeper Angela Borlaza – who later sued alleging that Brando promised that she would inherit a home from him when he died.

A Promise Is A Promise…

While a promise is a promise, not all promises are legally equal.  In the courtroom, an oral promise is usually not treated the same as a written promise. In this case, Brando either never promised Borlaza anything or promised to give her the home, but never got around to putting it in his will (or in a written contract).  Borlaza claimed a promise about a home was made and sued his estate for $627,000.

However, the alleged promise was oral. The law generally favors written evidence when it comes to estate planning matters, so the court examined only what was written in Brando’s will on the assumption that he made all of his wishes known. Borlaza eventually settled the matter for $125,000, but she was lucky to get even that.

Oral promises about inheritances are typically not legally valid and usually only introduce confusion and uncertainty about formal estate planning documents (such as a will or trust). Courts can – and reasonably must – rely upon the documents, like a will, when probating an estate. Although you might be trying to save money or time by promising inheritances to family members, friends, or others, but you aren’t doing anyone a favor. Luckily, there is a way to make your promises and wishes legally valid.

Put It in Writing – The Key to Making Promises Work

Make sure that your loved ones receive everything you promised them by putting your wishes in writing through a last will and testament, a trust, or other estate planning tool. Don’t rest on your laurels. It is imperative to update your estate planning documents when any significant or life changing events occur such as:

  • a new oral promise you made to someone
  • adoption
  • birth
  • circumstance changes (change in health, wealth, or state of residence)
  • divorce
  • income changes
  • marriage
  • divorce
  • re-marriage

Need help putting your wishes in writing? You’re in the right place. Contact me today and let me help you decide what type of estate plan might work best for your situation. It’s easier than you think and will give you the peace of mind that your loved ones aren’t forgotten.

James Brown

James Brown’s “Vague” Estate Plan Forced Family into Years of Litigation

James Brown, the legendary singer, songwriter, record producer, dancer, and bandleader was known to many as the “Godfather of Soul.” Although he intended his estimated $100 million estate to provide for all of his children and grandchildren, his intentions were somewhat vague.  This forced his family into years of litigation which ended up in the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Everything Seemed In Order…

Brown signed his last will and testament in front of Strom Thurmond, Jr. in 2000. Along with the will that bequeathed personal assets such as clothing, cars, and jewelry, Brown created a separate, irrevocable trust which bequeathed music rights, business assets, and his South Carolina home.

At first glance, it seems as though everything in Brown’s estate plan was in order. In fact, he was very specific about most of his intentions, including:

  • Donating the majority of his music empire to an educational charity
  • Providing for each of his six adult living children (Terry Brown, Larry Brown, Daryl Brown, Yamma Brown Lumar, Deanna Brown Thomas and Venisha Brown)
  • Creating a family education fund for his grandchildren

However, only days after his death in 2006 from congestive heart failure, chaos erupted.

Heirs Not Happy With Charitable Donation

Apparently, Brown’s substantial charitable donations didn’t sit well with his heirs. Both his children and wife contested the estate.

  • His children filed a lawsuit against the personal representatives of Brown’s estate alleging impropriety and alleged mismanagement of Brown’s assets. (This was likely a protest of the charitable donation.)
  • Brown’s wife at the time, Tomi Rae Hynie, and the son they had together, received nothing as Brown never updated his will to reflect the marriage or birth. In her lawsuit, Hynie asked the court to recognize her as Brown’s widow and their son as an heir.

In the end, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld Brown’s plans to benefit charities and recognized Hynie and their son as an heir.

Should You Anticipate Litigation?

Brown’s estate was substantial and somewhat controversial – and he failed to update or communicate his intentions to his family.  His heirs were taken by surprise.  An experienced attorney could have avoided much of the family upset.  Call me office today to protect your goals.

 

Warren Burger

Former Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger wrote his own will in 176 words. What he saved in legal fees by doing it himself was more than eaten up in estate taxes and court fees (totaling more than $450,000) that could have been avoided.

To prepare an estate plan correctly does require time, effort and money on the part of the client and skill on the part of the attorney, but the investment almost always pays off many times over in the end.  I can help you get the most out of your investment of time, effort and expense.

 

Doris Duke

Doris Duke’s Trustee Bilked Estate for $1M: How Well Do You Know Yours?

Choosing a trustee is a very personal matter and should never be left to chance. Doris Duke, heiress of Duke’s energy and tobacco fortunes, didn’t seem to know her trustee very well at all.  After Duke passed in 1992, her trustee bilked the estate for over $1 million. It begs the question:  How well do you know your trustee?

The Butler Did It!

That old saying certainly fits in this situation because Doris Duke had her butler appointed as her estate’s trustee. The estate was reportedly worth $1.3 billion at the time of her death. Perhaps all that money was too much temptation for Bernard Lafferty, an Irish immigrant with only a grade school education.

After Duke’s death in 1992, Lafferty went on a bit of a spending spree. It was reported that he spent over $1 million on himself, including:

  • Charging hundreds of thousands of dollars on luxury store items onto estate charge cards
  • Traveling all over the world, whenever he felt the urge
  • Redecorating Doris Duke’s old bedroom for himself

Lafferty apparently had very expensive taste as he spent over $60 thousand on the bedroom redecoration alone.

The final straw was when he borrowed more than $825,000 from the U.S. Trust Company, the estate’s co-executor, apparently without having to pay interest. He was removed as the trustee three years later.

5 Characteristics of a Good Trustee

Your trustee will ultimately manage your financial future as well as the disposition of your estate. While it’s tempting to choose a family, friend, or say – your butler – it might be wiser to treat your choice as a strict business decision.

Trustees have a “fiduciary” responsibility toward the trust. That means they owe the highest duty of care, good faith, honesty and diligence when it comes to managing it. Five characteristics of a good trustee include someone who is:

  1. Organized
  2. Dependable
  3. Detail-oriented
  4. Experienced in business matters
  5. Confident in their understanding of your intentions

Whomever you choose, keep in mind that anyone who is dissatisfied with the terms of your trust might try to influence your trustee. In many cases, family relationships are wrought with various types of emotion. Those close bonds could put your trustee in the middle of a situation they can’t handle – especially when it involves someone where saying no simply isn’t an option. Therefore, let’s talk about whether a professional trustee would be appropriate.

Protect Your Assets, Heirs & Wishes

Whether it’s choosing a trustee, creating a will, or coming up with a comprehensive estate plan, I can help you make the right choices. Protect your assets, your heirs, and your wishes. I can show you how to select the best trustee for your individual situation. Please feel free to call now and schedule a time to talk about protecting you, your family, and your assets.

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix

The guitar legend passed away at age 27 without a will.  State law awarded everything to his father, who later left everything to an adopted daughter from a later marriage.  People who knew Hendrix would have expected him to leave everything to his brother, but his brother received nothing.

It’s never too early to plan, even if you are young and single.  Most people, especially single people, are surprised to learn who will benefit if they die without a will.   I can help ensure that your estate is distributed in accordance with your wishes.

James Gandolfini (played Tony Soprano)

The IRS Took Half of Tony Soprano’s Estate: Don’t Fall into the Same Trap!

Actor and producer, James Gandolfini was famously known as the likeable mafia man Tony Soprano on the long running cable television series, The Sopranos. On the show, family meant everything. Well, sort of, anyway. In real life, Gandolfini’s family really did mean everything and he had the best intentions when it came to providing for them.

However, he made a classic mistake by failing to take advantage of tax incentives, legal protections and opportunities. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ended up taking half of his estate. Don’t fall into the same trap.

An Estate Planning Attorney Could Have Saved Gandolfini Millions

When James Gandolfini died suddenly in 2013, his estate was an estimated $70 million. In addition to leaving $1.6 million to friends and relatives and bequeathing properties and land in Italy to his kids, his will was fairly straight forward. He provided:

  • 30% to one sister
  • 30% to another sister
  • 20% to his wife
  • 20% to his daughter
  • Separate trusts for his wife and his 13-year-old son

Although he was very generous to his two sisters, his plan failed to take advantage of some key tax incentives and opportunities. Shockingly, the IRS ended up taking over half of his total net worth. An estate planning attorney could have saved millions of dollars that would have gone to his family instead of Uncle Sam.

3 Ways an Estate Planning Attorney Can Help You

It’s clear that anyone with an estate value equal to that of Gandolfini should have a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. However, you need a good estate planning attorney, too. Here are three ways an estate planning attorney can help you:

  1. Assess your current financial situation. Many people don’t fully understand what they have – or how to valuate it. A good planner always starts by reviewing your tax returns, income sources, liquid and illiquid assets, wills, insurance policies, and estate and retirement planning documents;
  2. Identify your goals. Identifying your goals and taking your current needs into account provides the foundation for a solid estate plan structure;
  3. Develop a plan. Developing an estate plan is where we can really make a difference – especially in:
  • Explaining how estate planning documents work
  • Weighing the pros and cons of each of those documents
  • Identifying tax issues and taking advantage of incentives and opportunities
  • Creating a “network” with other professionals such as CPAs, insurance professionals, and financial advisors

Best of all, an estate planning attorney can keep you on track by periodically reviewing your estate plan, advising you when to update your estate planning documents, and steer you in the right direction to avoid having your assets taken by the IRS.

Don’t fall into the same trap as Gandolfini. Protect your family by working with me to achieve your our estate planning goals.

 

 

Leona Helmsley

Hotel tycoon Leona Helmsley famously cut two of her grandchildren out of her $5 billion estate and left $12 million for her dog, named Trouble.  The grandchildren sued, claiming that Leona hadn’t been mentally fit to create her will and trust.  The case settled, leaving poor Trouble with “only” $2 million.

If you are planning to do anything unusual, especially if it involves anything that would leave unhappy family members, have a lawyer conduct a mini evaluation attesting to your mental competence.

Whitney Houston

Did Whitney Houston Leave Too Much Money To Bobbi Kristina?

Whitney Houston’s estate was worth approximately $20 million when she died – plenty to meet the needs of her only daughter – Bobbi Kristina. Sadly, only a few years after Houston’s death, Bobbi Kristina died as well.

Although Bobbi Kristina’s previous boyfriend, Nick Gordon, is still a suspect in her murder, many say that having access to so much money at a young age was a contributing factor. Sadly, Houston’s estate planning mistakes are all too common.

Aunt & Grandmother Say Will Did Not Depict Houston’s Intentions

Houston’s aunt and grandmother filed a lawsuit to re-write the will as they say it didn’t accurately depict what Whitney really wanted for Bobbi-Kristina. They claimed that she was too young to handle so much money.

Although they likely had the best of intentions, probate courts must follow the terms of the actual will or trust documents, not what the person who died might have otherwise intended.

Whitney Houston’s will was created in 1993, specifying that a trust would be created after she died for any children she may have (so before Bobbi-Kristina was even born). Unfortunately, she never updated her will before she died.

Inheriting Money at a Young Age is Never a Good Idea

Whether this tragedy could have been adverted if Bobbi Kristina’s distributions were delayed until she was older is anyone’s guess. The bottom line is that inheriting large sums of money at a young is generally never a good idea. Although the young beneficiary might be responsible, young people can be easily manipulated by others.

While it’s clear that Houston could have better protected that money with a stronger estate plan, she’s certainly not the only one guilty of not following through. In fact, many of us have the best intentions, but simply don’t make the time to create – and update – proper estate planning documents that can help beneficiaries.

Set Your Beneficiaries Up For Success!

You do have the power to set your young beneficiaries up for success. In most cases, that means creating a trust that allows them access to money over time and can be managed by someone you trust and has their best interests at heart.

I can provide you with the tools you need to protect your loved ones – whatever your situation may be. As Houston’s case shows, ignoring estate planning issues can have tragic consequences.  Contact me today and let’s get started protecting you and those you love.

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson’s Estate Pulled into Seemingly Endless Probate Court Battles

Michael Jackson, the “King of Pop,” had always been a controversial superstar. Over the years, he became the father of three children, Prince Michael Jackson II, Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson, and Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr.

While Jackson created a trust to care for his children and other family and friends, he never actually funded it. The result? Embarrassing and seemingly endless probate court battles between family members, the executors, and the IRS.

4 Essential Purposes of a Trust

A trust is a fiduciary arrangement which allows a third party (known as a trustee) to hold assets on behalf of beneficiaries. There are four primary benefits of trusts:

  • Avoiding probate. Funded trusts are not subject to probate. However, unfunded or underfunded trusts, just like wills, generally must go through probate.
  • Maintaining privacy. Probate is a matter of public record. However, since trusts aren’t subject to probate, privacy is maintained.
  • Mitigating the chance of litigation. Since trusts are not subject to the probate process, they are not a matter of public record. Therefore, fewer people know estate plan details – mitigating the chance of litigation.
  • Providing asset protection. Assets passed to loved ones in trust can be drafted to provide legal protection so assets cannot be easily seized by predators and creditors.

While these are arguably the most essential purposes, trusts can also affect what you pay in estate taxes as well.

Sadly, Jackson could not take advantage of any of these benefits. Although he created a “pour-over” will, which was intended to put his assets into a trust after his death, the “pour-over” will, like any other will, still had to be probated.

The probate, along with naming his attorney and a music executive as his executors (instead of family members), fueled a fire that could have been avoided with more mindful planning. Given the size of Jackson’s estate, it’s no surprise that everyone wanted a piece of the pie.

Don’t Burden Your Family!

Losing a loved one is difficult enough without having to endure legal battles afterward. In Jackson’s situation, a proper estate plan could have reduced litigation and legal fees, and helped provide privacy for his survivors. His situation, although it deals with hundreds of millions of dollars, applies to anyone who has assets worth protecting. In other words, it likely applies to everyone!

There are many types of trusts and estate planning tools available to ensure that you don’t burden your family after your death.  I’ll show you how to best provide for and protect your loved ones by creating the type of estate plan which is tailored to fit your needs.

Etta James

Estate planning is not just death planning; it’s life planning, too.  Blues singer Etta James had a family fight between her spouse and son over her mental competency to sign a power of attorney.

Sign your durable financial and health care powers of attorney LONG before you need them, at a time when nobody in THEIR right mind could possibly contest your competency.

Flo Jo

Flo Jo’s Tragic Mistake: A Missing Will 

If you’ve created a will, congratulations! You have made your intentions clear to the world and have provided for your loved ones based on what you determined was best. One caveat, and Rule #1 when creating your will – make sure to tell someone where to find it!

Olympic Gold Medalist’s Death Tears Family Apart When Will Is Lost

Olympian sprinter Florence (Flo Jo) Griffith Joyner was considered to be the “fastest woman of all time” having broken records in the 100 and 200 meter sprints in the 1988 Olympics. She was only 28-years-old at the time. Sadly, she died ten years later from an epileptic seizure.

Although she had created a will, it could never be located. Considered to have died intestate (without a will), it took a probate court four years to close her case. In the end, it caused years of litigation and tore her family apart.

Where There’s No Will, There’s No Way

Without a will to instruct a probate court as to your intentions, there is no way for it to adequately provide for and protect your loved ones. In Flo Jo’s case, a judge eventually appointed a third party to administer the estate because tensions had grown out of control between her husband and her mother.

Her mother claims Flo Jo had promised her that she could stay in the house for the rest of her life. Her husband claims that was not the agreement. Tensions only increased throughout the probate process.

Her mother unsuccessfully sued her son-in-law for wrongful death. The two also battled in court for years over, believe it or not, setting up a charitable organization in Flo Jo’s name. The bottom line was that the bad blood between them was never resolved.

Don’t Tear Your Family Apart!

No one dreams of having their family torn apart over who gets what and when after they die.  However, as Flo Jo’s case shows, that’s exactly what happens sometimes. It’s much easier to accept someone’s wishes when you know they are accurate.

That’s exactly what a will provides. Without one, your loved ones are left wondering about your true intentions – which is never a good idea.

I can help you create an estate plan which best fits your needs. Avoid tearing your family apart. Get the peace of mind knowing your intentions are clear, documented, and easy to find. Call me today. You owe it to your family.

Marlon Brando

The Perils of Promises…Marlon Brando’s Story

Legendary Oscar-winning actor Marlon Brando left the bulk of his estate (worth approximately $26 million) to his producer and other associates.

Brando created a valid last will and testament. However, he did not include his longtime housekeeper Angela Borlaza – who later sued alleging that Brando promised that she would inherit a home from him when he died.

A Promise Is A Promise…

While a promise is a promise, not all promises are legally equal.  In the courtroom, an oral promise is usually not treated the same as a written promise. In this case, Brando either never promised Borlaza anything or promised to give her the home, but never got around to putting it in his will (or in a written contract).  Borlaza claimed a promise about a home was made and sued his estate for $627,000.

However, the alleged promise was oral. The law generally favors written evidence when it comes to estate planning matters, so the court examined only what was written in Brando’s will on the assumption that he made all of his wishes known. Borlaza eventually settled the matter for $125,000, but she was lucky to get even that.

Oral promises about inheritances are typically not legally valid and usually only introduce confusion and uncertainty about formal estate planning documents (such as a will or trust). Courts can – and reasonably must – rely upon the documents, like a will, when probating an estate. Although you might be trying to save money or time by promising inheritances to family members, friends, or others, but you aren’t doing anyone a favor. Luckily, there is a way to make your promises and wishes legally valid.

Put It in Writing – The Key to Making Promises Work

Make sure that your loved ones receive everything you promised them by putting your wishes in writing through a last will and testament, a trust, or other estate planning tool. Don’t rest on your laurels. It is imperative to update your estate planning documents when any significant or life changing events occur such as:

  • a new oral promise you made to someone
  • adoption
  • birth
  • circumstance changes (change in health, wealth, or state of residence)
  • divorce
  • income changes
  • marriage
  • divorce
  • re-marriage

Need help putting your wishes in writing? You’re in the right place. Contact me today and let me help you decide what type of estate plan might work best for your situation. It’s easier than you think and will give you the peace of mind that your loved ones aren’t forgotten.

Heath Ledger

The actor’s will left everything to his parents and sister.  It hadn’t been updated with the birth of his daughter, resulting in family fights in the media.

Be sure to regularly update your estate plan following life events like a birth, adoption, marriage, divorce, or death in the family.  If you have an existing estate plan that needs updating and the attorney that prepared it is no longer available to provide continued maintenance, I can help you update your estate plan to account for major life changes as well as changes that have occurred in the tax laws since your estate plan was created.

Marilyn Monroe

Who Is Your Beneficiary? Marilyn Monroe Ultimately Had No Idea

When creating a last will and testament, it’s important to know your beneficiary. Sadly, that’s not always the case. Marilyn Monroe, one of the world’s most famous icons, didn’t seem to have any idea to whom she left her money.

Acting Coach & Psychiatrist Got Everything

Marilyn Monroe died at the age of 36 from a drug overdose. The year was 1962 and there have always been questions as to whom she named as beneficiaries. In fact, her business manager, Inez Melson, was allegedly suspicious about Marilyn Monroe’s will when it was first drafted.

Monroe’s will left some money to care for her mentally ill mother and bequeathed some of her personal belongings to Inez Melson. The remainder went to her acting coach and psychiatrist:

  • 25% to her psychiatrist to help those who couldn’t afford psychiatric counselling
  • 75% of the residue (the majority of her estate) was left to Lee Strasberg, her acting coach

A bit strange, but there it is, and Monroe could never predicted what happened next…

Strasberg’s 2nd Wife Takes Control of Monroe’s Fortune

Lee Strasberg controlled Monroe’s estate for a short while. Then, his second wife, Anna, took over. Although she only met Monroe one time, she created utter chaos for years. Here’s a brief rundown of what happened:

  • Multi-million lawsuit over publicity rights. Strasberg filed a multi-million lawsuit over publicity rights of Monroe’s image and likeness – and won. Ironically, she has since earned more money thanks to Monroe than Monroe earned in her lifetime.
  • Licensing deal on products. Strasberg made millions of dollars through a licensing deal with CMG Worldwide who sold products with Monroe’s picture on it such as cigarette lighters, pet clothing, and other “iconic” memorabilia.
  • Multi-million lawsuit over personal belongings. Strasberg also filed a lawsuit against the heirs of Monroe’s former agent, Inez Melson, for personal belongings in their position. She won and auctioned them off at Christie’s for over $13 million.

Strasberg eventually sold her interest in Monroe’s estate for a reported $20 – $30 million.  Interestingly, Monroe has consistently been one of the top highest earning deceased celebrities since her death. Her estate earned $17 million in 2015 alone.

Consider Everything – Carefully

When creating an estate plan, it’s important to consider everything very carefully. While you may want a specific person to benefit from your estate (as Monroe wanted for Lee Strasberg), the probability that someone else will get control of your assets is likely unless you provide otherwise.

Monroe obviously had very good intentions for providing for help to those who are mentally ill.  Had she considered those intentions more carefully, many more people could have been helped.  Instead, someone she met once bilked her estate for their own purposes.

We can all learn from Monroe’s mistakes. I can help you come up with a good estate planning tool which provides for your family, friends, and charitable organizations. Call me today.

Elvis Presley

Over 70% of Elvis Presley’s Estate Paid in Taxes & Fees: How Can You Avoid the Same Trap?

Did you know that the legendary singer and actor, Elvis Presley, earned over a billion dollars throughout his somewhat short career? That’s billion – with a B. However, when the “King of Rock & Roll” died in 1977, his estate’s net worth was only $10 million.

Of that, over 70% went to pay taxes and fees. That left someone who had earned over a billion dollars with only about $3 million (this time with an M) in the end. So, where did the money go and, more importantly, how can you avoid the same trap?

Where Did The Money Go?

It seems incomprehensible that someone who earned so much ended up with so little.Since Presley’s death, there have been many accusations made about his business manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker,” and his financial manager – Elvis’s own father Vernon.

  • “Colonel” Tom Parker. Presley’s manager may have discovered him, but he was later accused of charging unreasonable and exorbitant commissions compared to industry averages. In fact, unlike most managers who get 10 or 20 percent, Parker’s deal with Elvis was 50/50.

It was later revealed that Parker was actually an illegal immigrant from Holland, who was born under an entirely different name, never obtained a green card, and refused to let Elvis tour overseas because he couldn’t go with him.

If that weren’t enough, Parker also had a gambling problem and rumors say that he often lost more than $1 million in a night. After the truth came out, Parker’s rights to Elvis’s estate were terminated.

  • Vernon Presley. Elvis’s father, Vernon Presley, was very involved with his son’s finances. However, many believe that he may not have had enough business savvy to manage such a large enterprise.

Very little was done to invest profits and a trust was never created to avoid millions of dollars in estate taxes and fees which nearly bankrupted the estate itself. Had he sought the help of advisors, things might have turned out differently.

After Vernon died, Elvis’s only child, Lisa Marie, sold most of Elvis’s trademark rights for over $100 million. Perhaps she should have gotten involved sooner…

Protect Yourself Against Taxes!

Regardless of whether you earn a billion dollars and are known as a “King” or are simply a hard working Joe, do everything you can to protect yourself against taxes. In most situations, that means creating a trust that, if properly funded, will not be subject to probate and some of the taxes that associated with passing assets from one generation to the next.

Make the most of your hard earned income! Call me office today to find out about estate planning and how it can provide for and protect you and your family for generations to come.

 

Prince

Prince’s Sad and Incredibly Expensive Mistake! (Are You Making It, Too?)

The news of the unexpected death of music legend Prince, age 57, shocked the world and touched off stirring tributes from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, the Harlem Gospel Choir and the cast of Saturday Night Live. Prince left a profound, indelible mark as an artist – when asked what it was like to be the greatest guitar player alive, for instance, Eric Clapton famously responded: “I don’t know. Ask Prince.” Tragically, though, for all his talent, Prince made a simple error that is creating huge complications for his family.

According to paperwork filed with the Carver County, Minnesota courts by Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, Prince died intestate. That means he left no will or other document to guide the disposition of his estate. In April 2016, the court assigned a special administrator to manage his estate’s assets until a probate hearing can be held to appoint a personal representative.

Per Minnesota law, his estimated $300 million in assets – which include a large home and a music catalog rumored to contain valuable unreleased songs – must be distributed between his siblings. That may sound like a simple, mundane task, but it’s anything but. And the drama has already started. Reuters recently reported that several relatives have emerged from the woodwork to stake a claim to this fortune, including Carlin Q. Williams, who “asserts he was sired by Prince during a tryst his mother had with the singer in a Kansas City hotel room in 1976.”

What Happens If, Like Prince, You Die Without a Will?

When a person dies intestate, state law determines how the estate is handled. Unsurprisingly, these rules can lead to outcomes that deviate dramatically from the person’s wishes.

For instance, in Minnesota – the location of Prince’s Paisley Park estate, where he passed away on April 21, 2016 – half-siblings and full siblings are treated the same when it comes to inheritance. Tyka Nelson is Prince’s only full sibling; the singer also has five half-siblings.

Would Prince have wanted all six people to receive an equal share of his estate? Would he have left anything to Carlin Q. Williams? Would he have chosen to leave his estate to another person altogether… or to a meaningful charity? Did he just not care what happened to his legacy?

Unfortunately, since he died intestate, we will never get answers to these questions.

A Simple, Inexpensive Solution Was Available All Along

Prince famously toiled over every aspect of his musical art and developed a keen eye and ear for detail. Ironically, he could have prevented his estate’s issues without anything near the amount of effort he put into producing soaring songs like Purple Rain.

Working with an attorney to create an effective will or trust is not complicated. With just a few documents – including, for instance, a trust, healthcare proxy forms, power of attorney designations, and HIPAA release forms – you can eliminate uncertainty and provide for the next generation and your favorite causes.

The costs of probating even a relatively small intestate estate can reach into the five figures, provoke infighting among the people you love dearly, and extend the legal process for months or even years.

If you haven’t established a will or a trust, and you’ve been kicking yourself to get started because of cautionary stories like Prince’s, I can help. Call me today to learn, step by step, exactly what you need to do to ensure your legacy.

 

 

Princess Diana

Princess Diana passed on August 31, 1997.  Her will directed the executors “to give effect as soon as possible but not later than two years following my death to any written memorandum or notes of wishes of mine.”  The day after she signed the will, Diana wrote a “Letter of Wishes” asking that all of her jewelry and three-fourths of her chattels pass to her sons, with one-quarter of the rest earmarked for her 17 godchildren.

The executors executors petitioned the probate court for and obtained a “variance” of the will, giving the 17 godchildren one item each from Diana’s estate, rather than the one-quarter of the value of all of her personal property (aside from the jewelry), along with other changes.  The court allowed the executors to ignore the Letter of Wishes because it did not contain certain language required by British law, and instead used words like “discretion” and “wishes,” which meant that ultimately Diana’s executors had discretion whether or not to honor her wishes.  But Diana presumably wouldn’t have written the Letter of Wishes — and directed her executors to follow such writings in her will — without good reason.

Every jurisdiction has particular formalities that must be followed for a will and any separate memoranda to be honored.  I can help you ensure that all the t’s are crossed and i’s dotted so that your wishes as set forth in your estate plan are carried out.

But, would you believe it, Dennis Hopper (of all people!) got it right!

Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper Saves Heirs with Last Minute Estate Plan Changes

Dennis Hopper, known for his role in Easy Rider, wanted to leave his fortune to his family.  Well, not everyone in his family. Hopper made numerous estate planning changes in the last months of his life. His goal? To make sure his heirs shared his approximately $40 million in wealth and that his fifth, and current wife, Victoria, did not.

The 5th Marriage Isn’t Always the Charm…

At least that was the case between Hopper and his fifth wife, Victoria Duffy-Hopper, who was six years younger than Hopper’s oldest daughter from a previous marriage. It’s a long and rather ugly story, so let’s just touch on the highlights:

  • Hopper divorces four times and has several children.
  • Hopper marries Duffy, who is younger than all of the above children, and they have a daughter together.
  • Things go bad. Hopper files for divorce, accusing Duffy of being insane, inhuman, and volatile. He obtains a restraining order against her, but she refuses to move out of the home.
  • Things get worse. Victoria responds by claiming that Dennis is not mentally competent. She alleges that his adult children from his prior marriages improperly influenced him to file for divorce and suggested that he change his estate plan. She claims their motive was to cut Victoria out of his estate as well as the couple’s six-year-old daughter.
  • Hopper, at age 73, dies of cancer while all of this was happening.

Although Hopper died before this ordeal was over, he did some very smart things during the divorce process to ensure that his children received the bulk of his wealth. What he did applies to everyone.

Don’t Wait To Update Your Estate Plan!

Hopper made numerous changes to his estate planning documents instead of waiting for his divorce to be final. These included:

  • Changing his life insurance beneficiary designation
  • Making sure Duffy was not listed in his will or trust as a beneficiary
  • Verifying that his prenuptial agreement was in order

In the end, Duffy sued the estate for, well, everything and anything she could. When all was said and done, she settled with the estate, but for much less than she wanted. The majority of Hopper’s estate went where he wanted it to go – to his children. The lesson learned? Don’t wait to update your estate plan. Take action!

I Have the Tools and Advice You Need

It is imperative to update your estate plan documents when any significant or life changing events occur such as:

  • marriage
  • re-marriage
  • divorce
  • birth
  • adoption
  • income changes
  • circumstantial changes (to the health or wealth of loved ones)
  • change of state of residence

Even if you haven’t experienced anything “significant” since you last updated your estate plan, changes in the law (especially tax law) may make re-evaluating your estate plan a smart thing to do.  We have the tools you need to make sure that your wishes are carried out after your death.