Tag Archives: probate litigation

Lucille Ball’s daughter fights to save heirlooms

I Love Lucy star Lucille Ball died more than 20 years ago — on April 26, 1989, at the age of 77.  So why did her daughter rush to court last week to save awards, love letters and other personal items of the famous comedienne?Lucille_Ball

Reportedly, when Lucille passed, she left love letters between she and her first husband, Desi Arnaz, along with her lifetime achievement awards, photographs and other items to Lucille and Desi’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill.  But, apparently, Luckinbill never claimed the items from Lucille’s estate and lost them.

So they ended up in the hands of Susie Morton.  Morton is the widow of Gary Morton, who was Lucille Ball’s second husband.  After Lucille passed, these items, along with a Rolls-Royce, were passed to Gary Morton, and then onto Susie after Gary died.

Susie Morton placed the items up for sale at a Beverly Hills, California auction house, with the sale set to start this past Saturday, July 17, 2010.  When Luckinbill’s attorney threatened legal action to Read more…

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Trial over L’Oreal heiress sparks French political scandal

It’s been more than 18 months since the daughter of France’s richest woman sued to protect her from a man described as a “dandy” who had received more than $1 billion (U.S. value) in gifts from the owner of cosmetic giant L’Oreal.  You can read The Probate Lawyer Blog’s last article on the case here.Lillianebettencourt

The daughter of 87-year-old Liliane Bettencourt sued Francois-Marie Banier, a 63-year old (male) celebrity photographer who reportedly has befriended Johnny Depp, Salvador Dali and others.  Banier claims the lavish gifts of cash and art masterpieces were given to him by Bettencourt when she was mentally competent as a thank-you for his years of friendship and help as an advisor.

Bettencourt’s daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, was permitted to sue Banier criminally last year.  This means that if she wins her lawsuit, Banier will not only have to return the money, but also face jail time.  The case was set for trial late last week.

There was already plenty of intrigue surrounding the famous fortune fight Read more…

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Michael Jackson Estate Battles – the Year in Review

The one year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s shocking death on June 25, 2009 is upon us. While his music and thriller dance moves live on, unfortunately, so do the legal battles over his estate.  Let’s moonwalk backwards through the past 12 months to review the courtroom clashes and combative issues involving the King of Pop’s estate.

June 25, 2009 – Michael Jackson unexpectedly diesMichael Jackson Trial and Heirs at the age of 50 as he is about to embark on a comeback concert tour.

June 29 – Katherine and Joe Jackson, Michael’s parents, file to open the probate estate of Michael.  They allege that he died without a will and ask for Katherine to be appointed to administer his estate.  Katherine filed to be appointed as guardian of Michael’s three children the same day and is granted temporary authority to assume custody of them.

July 1 – John Branca, Michael’s former attorney, and John McClain, his former manager, file their own probate petition, asking the Judge to appoint them as executors of Michael’s estate

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Lawyers for Ron Perelman hit with sanctions for frivolous case

The Chairman of Revlon, Ron Perelman (who is one of the richest men in the world), recently lost a very heated and ugly probate lawsuit (or more specifically, several different lawsuits), in which he sued on behalf of his ex-wife’s estate.  Claudia Cohen had named Perelman as her executor shortly before she died in 2007.  Ron Perelman 2

So who did Perelman sue?  None other that the father of his ex, Robert Cohen, who was infirm, partially paralyzed and in his eighties at the time.  The Probate Lawyer Blog’s article discussing the case has all the details.

We found the case, and Perelman’s efforts in particular, especially troubling.  And we certainly aren’t the only ones.

In fact, the New Jersey judge who presided over the case recently ruled that Perelman’s lawyers are to be sanctioned because some of the claims they filed were frivolous.  He specifically took issue with their claims Cohen should not be permitted to change his estate plan because he had allegedly “promised” his daughter (who later died) an equal

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More fireworks for the Gary Coleman Estate

The Probate Lawyer Blog posed the question a few days ago:  Will there be a fight over Gary Coleman’s estate?  It looks like we have an answer — a resounding “Yes!”.Willis-and-arnold

And it all centers around Gary Coleman’s final wishes.  The 1999 will has been released.  You can download Gary Coleman’s Will (courtesy of TMZ).

It’s very brief (all of a page and a half), and it appoints his friend Dion Mial as executor and directs that all of his assets be turned over to a trust he created called the Millennium Edge Trust.

It also states that he should be cremated and that only those with no “financial ties” to him be invited to his wake.  Coleman wants them to ”look each other in the eyes and say they really cared personally for Gary Coleman.”  And no members of the press are invited!

Based on this language, ex-wife Shannon Price may not be included.  It sure looks like she has financial ties to him — at least, if

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Will there be a fight over Gary Coleman’s estate?

Gary Coleman died just over a week ago, on May 28, 2010.  And in that week, there have already been enough surprises to spark a whole series of “Whatcha talkin ’bout Willis!”‘s.  Coleman and Price

First came the question of how Gary Coleman died at the age of 42.  According to the 911 tapes, Shannon Price (who called herself his wife) summoned emergency personnel when he fell and hit his head.  She was frantic over what to do with her “husband”.

Sadly, he didn’t recover from the accident, despite being “conscious and lucid” the next morning, according to a Provo, Utah hospital spokesman.  He took a turn for the worse and was put on life support until Price decided to pull the plug, only two days after he hit his head.

Coleman’s parents were bothered after they learned of his death from the media.  Of course, these parents weren’t exactly close with their son.  He had successfully sued them in 1989, claiming they had stolen much of his earnings as a childhood star

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Michael Jackson living trust revealed

With so much exposure and scrutiny on everything that’s happened to Michael Jackson’s estate since he died, it should probably come as no surprise that his living trust has been leaked to the media and made public.  Wills are public documents and available for everyone to read (once they are filed with the probate court after someone dies).  Accordingly, the Michael Jackson will has been floating around for months.Michael Jackson Trial and Heirs

Trusts, however, are another matter.  Living trusts are intended to be private documents, operating outside of the court process (unless there is a dispute or challenge).

Someone decided to sneak a copy of Michael Jackson’s living trust document to the press, and a British website has the complete document online for your reading pleasure.  Click here to read the Michael Jackson Family Trust.

Note that the website mistakenly refers to this document as his “Will” — it’s actually his trust, not his will.

So what does the King of Pop’s trust reveal?

First, consistent with prior media reports, charity gets

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Dennis Hopper’s wife to continue fight into probate court

The recent legal battles between the ailing Dennis Hopper and his wife in divorce court have been well-documented.  Here are the Probate Lawyer Blog’s articles covering the case, including the Top Ten most hurtful allegations lobbed back and forth (a serious must-read!). Dennis Hopper

Now that Hopper has passed on due to his prostate cancer, on May 29th, at age 74, TMZ.com is reporting that his widow is already gearing up to challenge his estate in probate court.  Victoria Duffy-Hopper claimed that Hopper’s divorce filing was motivated by an effort to cut her out of his estate plan.

Reportedly, the couple’s prenuptial agreement calls for her to get 25% of his estate and $250,000 in life insurance proceeds, as long as they were both married and living together.  Because the divorce was not finalized when he died, they were still married (even though they were separated).  But, were they living together?

Duffy-Hopper (according to TMZ) is prepared to challenge the prenup in probate court and will argue they were “living together” because

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Songwriter Danny Tate wins long court fight to be set free

Guardianship and conservatorship proceedings exist to help those who are incapacitated, usually due to age or disability, and can’t make proper decisions for themselves. While these court cases help many thousands of people each year, they can also expose people to fraud and abuse.  Danny Tate

Many believe that Nashville, Tennessee musician Danny Tate was one of the very unfortunate who was abused by the system. Tate had written music for popular TV shows Entertainment Tonight and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, as well as a top 10 hit in the 1980′s. Yet his lifetime of savings of more than $600,000, and yearly royalty earnings of $125,000, are almost completely gone. And he’s only 54 years old.

Why? Because in 2007, his brother convinced a probate court judge that Danny was so addicted to crack cocaine that his life was in jeopardy, and he was unable to make legal, financial and medical decisions for himself.

Danny was not even told of the initial court hearing. He was not given an attorney. At a Read more…

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Did insurance fraud led to murder of an elderly woman?

The Stephen Hilbert family is well known in Indiana.  Hilbert founded insurance giant Conseco, which he ran until he was forced out because he owed the company hundreds of millions of dollars.  When the company sued Hilbert to collect the giant debt, he tried to hide behind a series of trusts to shelter his fortune.  Our book, Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!, includes the Hilbert story to highlight what trusts are not intended to be used for.

But now Stephen Hilbert and his family are in the news for a different reason.  Hilbert’s mother-in-law, Germaine “Suzy” Tomlinson, died under very questionable circumstances on September 28, 2008 at age 74.

Her death was ruled an accident.  Hilbert and his wife aren’t so sure.  Tomlinson was found fully dressed, face down in her bathtub, where she had drowned after a late night of drinking at a night club.   [See picture which reportedly was taken the night before she died] Tomlinson

There was broken glass, a shelf knocked over and a

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