Could Feud Over Saints Owner Tom Benson Happen In Your Family?

Yes, Tom Benson has a great deal more money and power than most of us.  How much?  Try $1.9 billion, according to the annual Forbes rankings.  Indeed, there are only 350 richer people in the whole country.  The successful owner of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, Benson built a wide-ranging empire of car dealerships, banks, various real estate holdings, and a television station.  He still actively participates in running his businesses — most of all his beloved Saints.  Tom Benson Saints

But for all of his wealth, prestige, and status, Tom Benson is in the midst of the same type of probate-related court battle that entangles many elderly individuals in our country.  Some of Benson’s heirs do not believe the 87-year-old is mentally competent to make his own decisions any more.  They are seeking to have him declared legally incompetent and protect him from what they claim is undue influence.

This court battle is rapidly turning ugly and is splitting the family in half. The offense is led Read more...

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Battles Brews Over Ernie Banks Estate, Caregiver Listed As Sole Heir

Widely beloved throughout the world of baseball, especially in Chicago, Ernie Banks — a/k/a Mr. Cub — rose from humble beginnings.  He began his career earning seven dollars a day in the Negro Leagues, before crossing the color barrier and becoming the Chicago Cubs’ most popular player ever.  Ernie Banks Estate

After his playing career, Banks has been widely respected as a positive role model in baseball and beyond.  He continued to break new ground, becoming the first African-American Ford Motor Company dealer ever and being actively involved in charity work throughout his life after baseball.  In 2013, President Obama awarded Banks the National Congressional Medal of Honor.

Family Fight Over Ernie Banks Estate

Ernie Banks died on January 23rd at age 83 from a heart condition.  Interestingly, his death certificate listed dementia as a “significant condition contributing” to his death.  Why is this important?

Only three months before he died, Ernie Banks signed a new set of estate planning documents, including a new will, trust, power of attorney, and healthcare directive.   Read more...

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Celebrity Legacies: Marlon Brando’s Estate Marred by Dozens of Lawsuits

Unquestionably, Marlon Brando was one of the leading actors of the 20th century.  The well-known Godfather was always in firm control … until it came to his estate that is.  Marlon Brando's Estate

This is installment #12 of our Estate Planning Lessons From The Stars series, which is based on the Celebrity Legacies TV show for which we provide commentary as the estate legal experts. See other articles in the series here.

Marlon Brando never followed convention.  He won his Oscar for Best Actor in 1973 for The Godfather, but Brando rejected the award as a protest to the treatment of Native Americans by the film industry.  Too bad he failed to follow the norms when it came to estate planning.

In part due to questions about his true intentions as expressed in his will and trust, Marlon Brando’s estate was involved in more than two dozens lawsuits by 2009 — five years after his death.  He passed away on July 1, 2004, at 80 years of age, suffering from a Read more...

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Celebrity Legacies: Elizabeth Taylor’s Estate Sets Gold Standard

Elizabeth Taylor is known for many things: her successful acting career, recognition as perhaps the ultimate icon of Hollywood glitz and glamour, standing up as a champion for AIDS research, her popular perfume, and, of course, her string of failed marriages.  Elizabeth Taylor's Estate

Failed nuptials aside, almost everything Liz Taylor touched turned to gold.  But what about her estate? Did she prepare her estate with the same high standards as the rest of her life?

This is installment #11 of our Estate Planning Lessons From The Stars series, which is based on the Celebrity Legacies TV show for which we provide commentary as the estate legal experts. See other articles in the series here.

Despite early reports that Taylor’s family may fight over her estate, her estate has been just the opposite:  peaceful.  No probate filing, no copies of her will or trust published on the web, and no court battles.

In fact, almost four years after her death at the age of 79, very little is publicly known about Elizabeth Read more...

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Celebrity Legacies: The Battle Over Marilyn Monroe’s Iconic Legacy

Marilyn Monroe left a legacy that seems to grow brighter each year.  Monroe’s image and likeness were so valuable that a multi-million dollar lawsuit over her publicity rights raged on, more than fifty years after she died, until it was finally resolved by a federal court of appeals.  Marilyn Monroe's legacy

The second wife of Marilyn Monroe’s acting coach was in the center of it.  Why did she — whom Monroe barely even knew — have control of the image and legacy of one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars ever?

This is installment #10 of our Estate Planning Lessons From The Stars series, which is based on the Celebrity Legacies TV show for which we provide commentary as the estate legal experts. See other articles in the series here.

Marilyn Monroe, whose real name was Norma Jean Baker, had a difficult childhood.  Her mother struggled with mental illness, and Monroe didn’t know for sure who her father was, much less have a relationship with him.  She was raised in a series of Read more...

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Celebrity Legacies: Farrah Fawcett’s Face Launches A War

When someone mentions Farrah Fawcett, most people think of her looks.  But what about her brains — her financial savvy in particular?  The actress and model who rose to fame as one of Charlie’s Angels planned well to protect her troubled son, Redmond, after she passed away.  Yet all was not angelic when it came to her financial legacy.  Andy Warhol Farrah Fawcett painting

This is installment #9 of our Estate Planning Lessons From The Stars series, which is based on the Celebrity Legacies TV show for which we provide commentary as the estate legal experts. See other articles in the series here.

Farrah Fawcett was far from the stereotypical blonde model when it came to finances.  She was hired to do five seasons of Charlie’s Angels, by Aaron Spelling’s production company.  After the first season hit it big, Fawcett re-negotiated for more money.  Relying on the fact that she never actually signed the contract, she was able to secure an increase in per-episode salary from $5,000 to $100,000.

Fawcett’s savvy definitely came Read more...

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Robin Williams’ Wife Dishonors His Trust Through Court Battle

When Robin Williams tragically committed suicide six months ago, he left behind three children from his first two marriages (ages 23 to 31) and a widow of less than three years, Susan Schneider Williams. Unlike many celebrities, Robin Williams took the time to create thoughtful and detailed estate plan, including various trusts to benefit both Susan and his three children. The trust established for his wife, called the Susan Trust, referred to and was consistent with a prenuptial agreement the couple signed in 2011 when they were married.  Robin Williams estate planning

Because Robin Williams’ estate plan was carefully crafted, it initially appeared that his heirs would avoid the bitter family squabbles that affect many mixed-marriage families (in Hollywood and around the country). After all, it is his wishes that matter, and because those wishes were seemingly captured through the proper estate planning documents, there should be nothing left to fight about, right?

Not so fast. Within the past 24 hours, the news broke that the Williams family will not be so lucky. Susan, Read more...

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Celebrity Legacies: John Wayne Heirs Profit From The Duke Legacy

The popularity of the Duke has never waned. But are John Wayne’s heirs going too far in profiting off of his legacy? And what does Duke University have to say about it?  John Wayne

This is installment #8 of our Estate Planning Lessons From The Stars series, which is based on the Celebrity Legacies TV show for which we provide commentary as the estate legal experts. See other articles in the series here.

With a movie career that spanned fifty years, there is no disputing that John Wayne is one of the most successful and treasured actors of all times. He was in the top ten list of actors whose films generated the highest box office gross earnings for an astonishing 25 years in a row. The Duke also holds the record for most leading movie roles of all time – 142. To this day, he remains in the top ten list in the annual Harris poll of favorite Hollywood actors and actresses. In fact, the American Film Institute ranked Wayne Read more...

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Cory Monteith’s Estate Shows How Even Young Adults Need Wills

News of Glee star Cory Monteith’s death by cocaine and alcohol overdose on July 13, 2013 stunned his fans across the world.  The heartthrob actor was only 31.  He had struggled with drug addiction since he was a teenager.  Cory Monteith estate

Cory’s mother attributed his struggles with drugs at an early age due to the lack of a relationship with his father.   In an interview with Good Morning America she said that Cory tried extra hard because he had been “invalidated” by his father.

Cory’s father, Joe Monteith, denied this and blamed Cory’s mother instead.  He said his job in the Canadian military forced him to be away from home for months at a time, but he tried to maintain a relationship with Cory.  In fact, he says his ex-wife prevented communication and returned Christmas gifts he sent to his son.

Cory Monteith’s Mom Speaks Out About Her Loss

It’s hard to determine whose side of the story is correct, but there is no dispute that Cory and his father didn’t have Read more...

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The Tragedy of Francesca Hilton, Daughter of Zsa Zsa Gabor

Everyone loves a good rags-to-riches tale.  But Francesca Gabor Hilton’s life followed a dramatically different path.  Born to Hollywood star Zsa Zsa Gabor, and founder of the famed Hilton hotel dynasty, Conrad Hilton, Francesca was raised living in mansions, attending celebrity parties, earning blue ribbons in horse-riding competitions, and jet-setting to Rome and Paris, among other fashionable cities.  But her life was not as idyllic as it seemed.  Zsa Zsa Gabor and Francesca Hilton

Zsa Zsa Gabor wrote in her autobiography that Francesca was born following a pregnancy that resulted from rape by Conrad Hilton, her husband at the time.  The couple divorced before Francesca was born.  Francesca told the Los Angeles Times in 2007 that she spent Christmases and occasional upscale lunches with her father.  But their relationship was never close. When Conrad died in 1979, he left his only daughter $100,000 out of his estate, with most of the wealth earmarked for charity.  That doesn’t sound too bad, except that Conrad Hilton’s estate was worth about $200 million at the time, including massive Hilton Read more...

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