The battle over the James Brown estate, the Godfather of Soul, started not long after James Brown died of heart failure and pneumonia on Christmas Day, 2006, at the age of 73. Now, more than six years later, the South Carolina Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that may finally lay the epic feud to rest.
Brown left behind a detailed will and trust, dated August 1, 2000. He wanted his personal and household effects divided between six adult children, the sum of two million dollars set aside in trust to pay for the education of his grandchildren, with the rest passing into a charitable trust. Specifically, he directed that the majority of his assets would be used to pay education expenses and assistance to benefit poor children and young adults who attended schools in either South Carolina or Georgia.
Brown was both physically and mentally strong when he signed his estate planning documents. His legal documents included clear instructions that he did not want anyone else to benefit, Read more…
The Britney Spears conservatorship saga has nearly reached its fifth year anniversary. We all remember her shaved head, public meltdowns, and wild paparazzi photographs. Her career, her relationship with her children, and even her life were all spinning dangerously out of control.
Compare that to her life now, five years later. Thirty-one-year-old Britney looks a great deal different from twenty-six-year-old Britney. She was just paid $15 million for one season’s work as a judge on the X Factor. Was she the best judge around? That’s debatable. There were reports that Simon Cowell wouldn’t have her back for another season, but it was Britney’s decision to leave X-Factor.
Britney Spears conservatorship video
Either way, there’s no debate that Britney seemed … well, very normal. She was mature, composed, even graceful at times. She mentored teenage singers. She held herself together and gave constructive feedback. Britney was reportedly re-energized by the experience and is ready to start releasing new music and touring again.
What thirty-one-year-old Britney doesn’t look like is someone who Read more…
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…
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…
News broke last week about the Brooke Astor estate settlement. The renowned New York society queen and philanthropist, who died at age 105, left behind an estate of nearly $200 million dollars.
Brooke Astor’s assets — along with the $50 million charitable trust of her late husband — have been tied up since she passed in 2007. The fighting was so extensive that it dragged in a “who’s who” of top New York City institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, the New York Public Library, Rockefeller University, and even the United Nations, among many others.
Under Astor’s 2002 will, her only son, Anthony Marshall, stood to inherit tens of millions of dollars, with most of it slated to pass to charity after he died. But Marshall wanted much more. He and a lawyer, Francis X. Morrissey, Jr., convinced the elderly Astor — when she was suffering from dementia — to sign a series of codicils to Astor’s 2002 will. These codicils would have allowed Marshall to leave Read more…
Shortly after Amy Winehouse passed away from accidental alcohol poisoning at the age of 27 last July, reports surfaced that she not only had a will, but she had the foresight to update her will after her divorce from ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil. These early reports have recently been proven wrong.
Probate records were recently filed showing that Winehouse died intestate, meaning without a valid will. The estate value is listed as £4,257,580 (worth about $6.7 million U.S.) in total assets, but taxes and other debts reduce the value to £2,944,554, or $4.66 million, U.S. Many believed her estate would be worth much more, perhaps as high as $15 to $20 million.
But, let’s not jump to conclusions so quickly. The assets passing through probate court are those left in her individual name when she died. So anything held jointly with someone else, or that had a beneficiary designation (like a life insurance policy), would pass outside of probate, directly to the other person. Also, if Winehouse had a trust — Read more…
Soon after the tragic news broke of the passing of Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder and innovator extraordinaire, people began wondering what would become of his fortune. Forbes recently estimated Jobs’ wealth at $7 billion.
ABCNews.com recently interviewed Danielle Mayoras on this very topic. It reported how Jobs, the largest single shareholder of Disney (which of course owns ABC News), has received $242 million in Disney stock dividends alone, since 2006. How much is his Disney stock worth? $4.4 billion, for 138 million shares, good for 7.4 percent of the total Disney stock.
As Danielle pointed out in the interview, usually people with that much wealth do the proper estate planning, including using living trusts, charitable bequests, and more. Not only does this keep their affairs private, it can help minimize estate taxes. Topping out at 35%, the current estate tax laws — while much lower than in years past — will obviously take a big bite out of Jobs’ family fortune. That comes out to almost $2.45 billion in taxes, Read more…
Celebrities are not the only ones to make mistakes with their estate planning. It happens to people all across the country on a regular basis. The end result — just like with the rich and famous — often is an ugly and expensive family fight in court. One of the most common estate planning mistakes that people make is joint ownership.
For the most part, we’re not talking about when a husband and wife have joint bank accounts or the title to their home is held in both of their names. While not ideal for estate planning, this is quite common and can often be used without problems, except in many second-marriage situations or large estates that may suffer adverse tax consequences.
The area where we see significant problems, however, is when a parent adds a child’s name to an asset, such as a bank account, investment, or real estate. This is often done to help with bill paying, as a will-substitute to avoid probate court (often called a “poor-man’s Read more…
Civil rights icon Rosa Parks passed away at the age of 92 on October 25, 2005, in Detroit, Michigan. Almost six years later, her legacy is still tied up in a lengthy court battle. The case features allegations of abuse, cronyism and corruption by the probate judge as well as the two lawyers he appointed to oversee the estate and trust
It also involves who will receive all of the considerable civil rights memorabilia owned by Rosa Parks when she was alive, and even the rights to use her name and likeness.
Rosa Parks’ will and trust left the majority of her assets to the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, operated by Rosa Parks’ longtime friend, Elaine Steele. Parks and Steele had formed this Institute. Steele says she was close to Parks for 45 years and that Parks looked at her as the “daughter she never had.”
But the probate judge did not approve of how Steele handled the estate and trust of Rosa Parks and removed Read more…
The interesting case of a wealthy Michigan lumber baron who died in 1919 highlights how creative someone can be when using a trust in estate planning.
Wellington R. Burt did not want his children, or even his grandchildren, to inherit his wealth, which is now worth around $100 million. So he created an unusual trust, which is described in this article from ABCNews.com:
The descendants of Wellington R. Burt, who became fabulously wealthy in the age of the robber barons, will finally inherit his fortune — 92 years after his death.
Burt, who died in 1919 at age 87 in Saginaw, Mich., made his wealth in the lumber and iron industries. For reasons not described in his will, he stipulated that the majority of his fortune would be distributed 21 years after his last surviving grandchild’s death.
That granddaughter died in 1989. Now 12 descendants will split the fortune, estimated at $100 million to $110 million.
“I don’t think we’ll ever know exactly what it was that ticked him off