Tag Archives: court

Five Estate Planning Lessons From The Paul Walker Estate

Paul William Walker IPaul Walker EstateV was the star of the Fast & Furious movies, until his unfortunate — and ironic — death in a high-speed car accident on November 30, 2013.  The car, in which Walker was a passenger, was found to have been doing at least 100 mph.  Walker was 40 years old when he died, survived by his parents and his 15-year old daughter, Meadow Rain Walker.

Recently, Paul Walker’s father filed to open the estate, including Walker’s Last Will and Testament, which you can read here: Read Paul Walker’s Will.  It sheds some interesting information about the Paul Walker Estate and highlights some valuable estate planning lessons.

First, the probate filing and will reveal that Walker had assets of about 25 million dollars, including 8 million in personal property (which would include cash and investments), $8.5 in expected income, and another $8.5 million in real estate (after subtracting mortgages).

Second, the filing shows that Walker had a revocable living trust, benefiting his daughter as the sole Read more...

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Anna Nicole Smith’s Case Makes A Comeback

Anna Nicole Smith caseIt’s now, officially, the Estate Fight That Refuses To Die!  The quest for money started by Anna Nicole Smith — the former Playboy Playmate, stripper, TV reality star, and the true love of 89-year old Texas oil tycoon, J. Howard Marshall — is not over.  Despite almost 18 years of litigation, two trips to the United States Supreme Court, and untold millions of dollars spent on legal fees, the Anna Nicole Smith case lives on.

Anna Nicole Smith (a/k/a Vickie Lynn Marshall) sued after her elderly husband died, following their 14-month marriage.  She was not happy being left out of his massive ($1.6 billion) estate.  She blamed one of his sons, Pierce Marshall, who inherited everything.

Anna Nicole Smith Case

The probate case started in Louisiana and then moved to Texas.  Smith sued there, but was forced to file bankruptcy in California.  When she did, Pierce sued her, filing a claim in bankruptcy court.  He claimed Smith defamed him by telling the media he committed fraud in managing his father’s Read more...

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Family of Zsa Zsa Gabor Feuds as She Nears Death

Zsa Zsa Gabor, who appeared in dozens of movies and television shows throughout a career that spanned five decades, is approaching the end. She has a feeding tube, can hardly tell when she’s at home or in the hospital, and is barely able to communicate. According to a recent Associated Press story, she’s been admitted to the hospital nearly two dozen times since last summer, and she recently was in a coma.

Sadly, her final days are surrounding by fighting, between her husband of 25 years and her only daughter. Frederic Prinz von Anhalt is her ninth husband, and he’s been her devoted caregiver and says he is constantly by her side. Gabor’s daughter, Francesca Hilton (yes, from that Hilton family), tells a different story of Von Anhalt. She says he doesn’t let her visit her mother, won’t update her about her medical condition, and that she learned of a recent hospitalization from a reporter, since Von Anhalt won’t talk to her.

Hilton says she wants to see her mother Read more...

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Anna Nicole Smith Estate loses out on $88 Million

Can the Granddaddy of all probate disputes finally be nearing an end?  Those in charge of the Anna Nicole Smith Estate certainly hope not.  Smith, also known as Vickie Lynn Marshall, battled for a share of her late husband’s multi-billion dollar estate for almost 12 years before she died.  Here’s the Probate Lawyer Blog’s discussion of the case to bring you up to speed. 

To cut to the chase, Smith was broken hearted when she didn’t inherit anything from the estate or trust of J. Howard Marshall II, her late husband (who was more than 60 years older than she was).  Smith filed legal claims seeking a piece of his fortune in two different states; she lost in Texas but won in California.  Her victory was snatched away by the federal court of appeals, but she found new hope when that ruling was overturned by the United States Supreme Court in 2006.  Yes, that’s right, the highest court in our land ruled in favor of the ex-Playboy Playmate.

But, now,

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Michael Jackson Estate’s record deal raises questions

The Probate Lawyer Blog featured this article about the Michael Jackson Estate several weeks ago, posing the question of whether it is ethical for estate executors to seek a 10% fee for certain business deals they reach for such a high-profile estate.  It’s especially problematic when you factor in that one of the executors was Michael Jackson’s attorney.  Michael Jackson Estate

Well, this attorney, John Branca, and his co-executor, John McClain (a music executive), just hit the mother-load.  It was widely reported yesterday that they brokered a deal worth up to $250 million dollars (that’s right — one quarter of a billion dollars!). What was the deal for?  Sony announced a seven-year distribution agreement for unreleased music recorded by the late King of Pop (as well as related video footage).

Yes that means that Branca and McClain earned $12.5 million each for one deal.

Why do we question this?  For several reasons, actually.  First, it’s the job of executors to bring in as much money as possible for an estate that has earning

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Dennis Hopper battling his wife; says she’s after his will

Dennis Hopper was already fighting against advanced prostrate cancer.  Now the 73-year-old actor is turning up the heat in his battle against his wife, 41-year-old Victoria.  He filed for divorce in January, and according to published reports, the key factor is his will.  

Victoria is a 25% beneficiary under Hopper’s will.  But, in the case of divorce, the couple’s prenuptial agreement says that she gets nothing.  And that’s the sole motivating factor behind the divorce, according to Victoria.  She blames his three children from a prior marriage and says that Dennis is not making rational decisions, due in large part to the medication he’s taking.

In other words, she says it’s all about the estate planning.

And it’s hard to argue with that point.  Dennis Hopper’s lawyer was in court last week, seeking a restraining order against Victoria to keep her away from him.  His attorney filed a doctor’s report saying that his estranged wife is hampering his recovery.  The doctor feels that the less he sees of her, the

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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.  Farrah Fawcett's Trust

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 Farrah 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

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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.Bo_Schembechler

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

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Katherine Jackson’s Shocking Change Of Heart

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

Michael Jackson Trial and Heirs

Her case took a new direction, all right.  She decided to drop her claim.  That’s right, she stopped fighting and agreed to let the executors run the show without her.

Surprised?  I was.  And I was far from the only one.  Here’s what a lawyer in the case said about Katherine Jackson’s change of heart, according to CNN:

“She has now reneged on her obligation to her family.”  This same lawyer then said that it was “one of the most despicable displays” he’d ever seen in court.  He even accused Katherine of colluding with the estate executors in a “secret deal”.

So who

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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.  Leona_Helmsley_Trial_and_Heirs

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

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