Do you know a family who is arguing over an estate after a loved one has passed away? Whether it’s someone facing a possible probate court battle, wondering about contesting a will, or confused over how a family trust is being handled, finding an early solution before fighting erupts is critical.
Through the years, Danielle and Andy Mayoras have worked with too many families embroiled in estate and probate conflicts to count. As a result, they’ve started a new project based on their commitment to help families find resolutions outside of probate court and without spending money on attorneys.
Danielle and Andy are authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, which uses true stories of celebrity estate errors to teach people how to protect their heirs. As Forbes contributors, Danielle and Andy regularly analyze celebrity stories to provide lessons for families across the country.
The husband-and-wife duo now wants to combine their legal expertise to help select families even more. Danielle is an estate planning and elder law Read more...
Arturo Gatti, the former world-champion boxer, died violently while on vacation in Brazil, in 2009. His wife, Amanda Rodrigues Gatti, was arrested for murder, only to be released after the police ruled the death a suicide. Now, almost four years later, Brazilian authorities have re-opened the investigation and the case may soon return to court.
It’s the latest chapter in a long line of legal struggles that started after Arturo Gatti’s death. Gatti’s mother, brother, and the mother of his first child have always believed that Rodrigues was responsible for his death. Gatti was found strangled by Rodrigues’ purse strap, and she reportedly was in the room with his body for ten hours without realizing he was dead.
Rodrigues has consistently maintained that Gatti committed suicide. She points out that autopsies have been done in both Brazil and Montreal — where the couple lived — and both determined that Gatti killed himself.
Arturo Gatti’s Death
But that has been only part of the controversy. The other family members Read more...
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.
James Brown, February 1973, Musikhalle, Hamburg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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 Read more...
Chicago businessman Urooj Khan jumped for joy when he learned he had the winning numbers for a million-dollar lottery drawing last summer. Too bad he never had a chance to enjoy it. He was murdered days before he was going to receive the $425,000 lump-sum, after-tax winnings.
Urooj Khan / Illinois Lottery
Originally, the 46-year-old’s death was ruled natural, due to hardening of the arteries. Later a family member — unidentified so far — raised suspicions with the police that led to testing blood and tissue samples. The results came back positive for cyanide. Police reclassified the death as a homicide.
Khan’s body was recently exhumed, several months after he was originally buried, so more testing could be done to help police learn more about his cause of death. So far, they haven’t named a suspect. However, Khan’s brother isn’t waiting for the police to do so. He’s already spoken out.
Urooj Khan lottery local news video
Urooj Khan’s brother, Imtiaz Khan, told the Chicago Sun-Times that he has suspicions Read more...
Jenni Rivera was a singer-songwriter, actress and Telemundo TV star who died tragically on December 9, 2012 in a plane crash in Mexico. While well-known to fans of Latino music and Mexican TV, Rivera appeared poised to breakthrough to mainstream America due to a new TV show she was set to star in for ABC.
The 43-year old Rivera lived a turbulent life. She had her first child at age 15 and then married the father. They had two more children together, but it was a marriage of abuse and molestation. After the divorce, Rivera’s first husband was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in jail for child molestation.
Rivera married twice more and had two more children from her second marriage. Her third marriage, to professional baseball player Esteban Loaiza, also was ending. The couple filed for divorce on October 1, 2012, citing irreconcilable differences. There was a report that Rivera and her eldest daughter had been fighting because the daughter had an affair with Loaiza, but it’s a 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...
Whitney Houston’s mother, Cissy Houston, and sister-in-law, Marion Houston, filed a request in court to change the terms of Whitney Houston’s will. They want to delay when Bobbi Kristina receives her inheritance in order to protect her.
Whitney Houston performing with her daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown on Good Morning America (Central Park, New York City) on September 1, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The will created a “testamentary trust” for Bobbi Kristina. What is a testamentary trust? It’s when a will calls for money to be held in trust for one or more beneficiaries, usually so they can receive money spaced out over time instead of all at once. It’s far from perfect, as we discuss in this article, because a testamentary trust does not avoid probate, which can be expensive, messy and very public.
But that is not the biggest drawback to Whitney Houston’s will. Her biggest mistake was failing to update her will, even after her divorce from Bobby Brown, to better protect Bobbi Kristina. The Read more...
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...
Estate Planning Mistakes
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 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...