Less than four weeks since its release, the movie Lincoln already has earned nearly $84 million at the box office. Chronicling Abraham Lincoln’s historic efforts to abolish slavery, the movie has garnered widespread critical and audience appeal.
At Trial & Heirs, however, we can’t help but think of another aspect of Abraham Lincoln’s life … he is one of the most notable examples of someone dying without a will. This got us thinking, and digging. What did happen to the Abraham Lincoln estate after he died?
According to a series of bulletins issued from the Abraham Lincoln Association, his family was understandably overcome with grief. By noon on the day he died, April 15, 1865, Lincoln’s oldest son, Robert, sent a telegram to Justice David Davis of the United States Supreme Court. Davis was a close friend of Lincoln and Robert considered Davis to be a “second father,” according to a letter Robert wrote years later. The telegram said, “Please come at once to Washington to take charge of Read more…
One could only imagine what George Jefferson — the wise-cracking character who was “movin’ on up” on the 1970′s TV hit, The Jeffersons — would have said about this predicament. The body of actor Sherman Hemsley, who played George Jefferson, has been kept on ice for the last 3 1/2 months. His remains have been refrigerated since he passed away from lung cancer on July 24, 2012, at the age of 74.
Why? It’s all because a man claiming to be his half-brother challenged the validity of Hemsley’s will in court. Hemsley’s will — created a mere 6 weeks before he died — left everything to his former business manager and close friend, Flora Enchinton. Sherman Hemsley had no other family members alive. Estate records show the value of his estate at around $50,000.
That’s not much money to fight over. But that didn’t stop Richard Thornton from coming forward and making the claim, which forced Hemsley’s body into legal limbo. Thornton asserted he should be the one to make Read more…
What would it be like if you had to fight Superman? You may be thinking, “Superman is the hero, so why would he fight me?” Work with us for a minute. After all, when the concept of “Superman” was first developed, he was a villain and not a hero.
Imagine for a moment going mano-a-mano against the Man of Steel. Just regular, mortal you against a brightly-garbed warrior who has super-strength, can fly, is faster than a speeding bullet, and has only one weakness. It doesn’t sound like much fun. It would seem rather hopeless … unless you had some Kryptonite in your back pocket.
The heirs of the two co-creators of the legendary comic book hero must feel just as hopeless at times in their fight over what they feel is “truth, justice and the American way.” They have been battling the powerful media conglomerates, Warner Bros. and DC Comics, for many years in a series of (seemingly) never-ending lawsuits. The heirs claim entitlement to full ownership of the Read more…
Whitney Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston, and sister-in-law, Marion Houston, filed a request in court to change the terms of Whitney Houston’s will. They want to delay when Bobbi Kristina receives her inheritance in order to protect her.
The will created a “testamentary trust” for Bobbi Kristina. What is a testamentary trust? It’s when a will calls for money to be held in trust for one or more beneficiaries, usually so they can receive money spaced out over time instead of all at once. It’s far from perfect, as we discuss in this article, because a testamentary trust does not avoid probate, which can be expensive, messy and very public.
But that is not the biggest drawback to Whitney Houston’s will. Her biggest mistake was failing to update her will, even after her divorce from Bobby Brown, to better protect Bobbi Kristina. The will — signed on February 3, 1993 — provides that Bobbi Kristina will receive 10% of the estate when she turns age 21, another one-sixth Read more…
Concert promoter AEG is on the defensive after the Los Angeles Times recently published confidential emails about AEG’s role in the cause of Michael Jackson’s death. The New York Daily News revealed more of the emails in a second article this weekend.
Together, the emails paint a picture of AEG demanding that the concert tour go on, despite knowing the extremely fragile state Michael Jackson was in at the time.
But what does it all mean, legally? Should AEG be found liable for Michael Jackson’s death?
Katherine Jackson and other family members sued AEG, blaming them for controlling and failing to supervise Dr. Conrad Murray, thereby causing Jackson’s death. AEG denies it controlled or supervised Murray at all. They say he was Jackson’s personal physician and he alone was responsible.
Whether that’s true or not, AEG was clearly involved in some manner. The Daily News revealed the most telling of the emails that have been publicly disclosed so far, about AEG’s role in Michael Jackson’s death:
After The Monkees frontman, Davy Jones, died of a heart attack at age 66 on February 29, 2012, his family took the very unusual step of having Davy Jones Will and related probate court documents sealed — perhaps to shield family disharmony from public view.
Wills, unlike living trusts, are public court documents and generally available for the public to read. Because of this, you can find hundreds of celebrity wills online through simple internet searches (and it sure helped us write our book, Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!).
Davy’s family, led by his oldest daughter, Talia Jones — who has been named as the personal representative to administer the Davy Jones Estate — asked the Judge to seal the file. The request, according to this gossip website that obtained a copy of it, argued that the court should deny public access to his “planning documents and financial affairs as public opinion could have a material effect on his copyrights, royalties and ongoing goodwill.” The request was granted, Read more…
As two lawyers who have written about celebrity estates for years and hosted the national television special Trial and Heirs: Protect Your Family Fortune! on PBS affiliates, we’ve noticed that stars often make the same big estate planning mistakes as people with very modest assets. It’s just the dollar amounts that differ.
Learn from their goofs and avoid repeating them yourself. That way, you’ll protect your loved ones and be sure your inheritance wishes are carried out.
These are the top four estate planning mistakes made by celebs — errors you’ll want to avoid:
1. No will. Most of us naturally want to be sure our assets are distributed properly after we pass away, so it’s surprising that almost two-thirds of adults don’t even have simple wills. Whether you have millions of dollars or just a modest estate, estate planning is critical — starting with a will.
Unfortunately for the family of Amy Winehouse, the singer didn’t have a will when she unexpectedly passed away at age 27, leaving Read more…
Fighting over estates is never pretty. These court battles are emotional, draining, and sometimes downright nasty for everyone involved. When they happen to the estate of a beloved American icon, it’s even more tragic.
Rosa Parks Estate has been embroiled in fighting since not long after she died on October 24, 2005 at the age of 92 in Detroit, Michigan. You can read about the long history of the court battle, which we summarized in this Trial & Heirs article. In short, the Michigan Supreme Court restored the rights of the primary beneficiaries to Rosa Parks’ estate plan, years after the probate court judge ordered that their rights had been forfeited. Finally, it seemed that the fighting had reached its end.
Instead, the battle actually turned uglier than before. The attorney representing those beneficiaries who rights were recently restored — Rosa Parks’ friend Elaine Steele and the charitable institute that Rosa Parks had created, which Steele operates — went on the attack again. He took the highly-unusual step of Read more…
Michael Jackson’s estate faced a tumultuous beginning three years ago after he unexpectedly died. First his mother, Katherine, and then his father, Joe, filed challenges against the executors of his Estate, John Branca and John McClain. Katherine backed off her attack and Joe’s case was thrown out of court.
Since then, the Estate has been relatively peaceful, at least on the surface. Branca and McClain have led the Estate from a debt-ridden start to enormous profits. They began around $500 million in the red when the King of Pop died. Three years later, Michael Jackson’s estate reported $475 million in profits.
Of course, Branca and McClain have enjoyed a huge financial windfall from this as well. They have a special arrangement, blessed by the probate judge who oversees the estate, allowing them to earn 10% from most deals they cut for the Estate. Branca and McClain are now facing a new attack over their handling of the Estate.
Several of Michael’s brothers and sisters — including Janet, Randy, Tito and Read more…
It’s estimated that one in twenty American homes have a Thomas Kinkade painting hanging on the walls. The self-named “Painter of Light” turned his gift of rendering landscapes and other words of art into a tremendous commercial endeavor. In fact, his numerous corporate holdings reportedly topped $100 million in annual sales some years, primarily due to mass reproduction of his works.
But the Painter of Light was not without his demons, primarily alcoholism and a failed marriage. He died suddenly at age 54 caused by “acute intoxication” from alcohol and Valium, on April 6, 2012. His wife, Nanette, had filed for divorce two years before, and the couple was legally separated. Kinkade died while living with his girlfriend of 18 months, Amy Pinto-Walsh.
The girlfriend and estranged wife began fighting almost immediately after Kinkade passed. Pinto-Walsh was kept from the funeral and slapped with a lawsuit for breach of a confidentiality agreement. The family wanted her to remain quiet and not share any personal details with the media.
Pinto-Walsh did Read more…