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…
Anyone who likes to go hiking, biking or camping probably knows what Gore-Tex is. The breathable, waterproof fabric made W.L. Gore and Associates into a huge success. The privately-held company hit #134 in Forbes’ most recent list of America’s largest private companies, with an estimated $3 billion in annual revenue.
Founder Bill Gore passed away in 1986 and his widow, Genevieve Gore, died on January 20, 2005. The couple, way back in 1972, finalized a trust to pass most of their stock in the company onto the children, and ultimately their grandchildren. They smartly planned ahead, realizing how valuable their Gore-Tex invention could become and how much growth their stock could achieve. So they funded the trust through a holding company, early on, to minimize estate taxes.
Wanting to treat their heirs equally, the Gores set up five equal shares, for their five children. They created a supplemental trust so that each of the grandchildren could receive an equal amount of stock as well.
The plan worked very well … Read more…
By all accounts, actor Gary Coleman had a difficult life after his days as the childhood star of Diff’rent Strokes. He was estranged from his parents and died — nearly broke — at the age of 42. While he was married at one time, he said in a TV interview that he remained a virgin, even after his marriage. So what kind of marriage was it?
Not a very happy one, according to a Utah judge who recently issued a ruling to decide who gets to administer, and ultimately inherit, what little constitutes Gary Coleman’s Estate. The lawsuit pitted Gary Coleman’s ex-wife, Shannon Price — who said she actually was still his wife until he died — against Coleman’s friend and former head of his corporation, Anna Gray.
Gary Coleman Estate Battle
In 2005, Gary Coleman signed a will naming Gray as his executor and beneficiary. But Coleman married Price in 2007, and then signed a handwritten codicil to the will (“codicil” means amendment to a will) in 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…
Whitney Houston’s funeral this weekend provided the first public glimpse of what may be trouble involving her estate. Her ex-husband, Bobby Brown, was invited to the funeral, after reports surfaced that some family members didn’t want him there. He didn’t last long. Brown’s entourage wasn’t allowed to sit with him at the funeral. Brown wasn’t happy and left, visibly upset.
Bobby Brown issued a statement after the funeral, saying he and his group were asked to relocate three times, and rather than making a scene, he chose to pay his respects quickly and leave.
TMZ reported the day before Whitney Houston’s funeral that mother, Cissy Houston, and other family members had been trying to keep Brown away from Bobbi Kristina, Whitney’s daughter with Brown. They were said to be worried that Brown would try to use Bobbi Kristina to make a play for some of Whitney’s money.
Brown’s statement confirmed some of this. He said that security prevented him from seeing his daughter at the funeral. Is money the reason Read more…
John Goodman is the 48-year old multimillionaire from Palm Beach, Florida who recently made headlines when it was publicly revealed that he adopted his 42-year old girlfriend to help protect the family fortune.
Goodman did this in the midst of criminal and civil legal proceedings pending against him. They arose from the February, 2010 drunk driving incident during which Goodman reportedly ran a stop sign, killed a 23-year old man, and fled the scene. When it was recently revealed that Goodman, in October of last year, had legally adopted his girlfriend, people across the country were outraged.
Goodman’s lawyer issued a statement defending the adoption. He states that the adoption was done to protect Goodman’s children, not to shield assets from the family of the slain driver who is suing him.
While Goodman has been bashed across the country for his legal maneuver, it actually makes sense from a probate law perspective. Years ago, Goodman placed $1.5 million into an irrevocable trust for his two children. By investing that money Read more…