Kent Larsson writes about the proper use of wills, advance directives, trusts, and other estate planning tools, and how how they play a vital role in you receiving proper medical care and helping you to preserve and pass on your assets to your loved ones.
Las Vegas killer leaves large estate, but fair compensation for the victims will be a challenge.
Despite a hefty estate of $5 million left behind, it will be difficult to compensate the victims of Las Vegas mass shooter Stephen Paddock, according to The New York Times in "The Las Vegas Gunman Was Rich. Will His Wealth Go to the Victims?"
It still is not known exactly why mass murder Stephen Paddock decided to shoot at Las Vegas concert goers from his hotel window. He was relatively well-off and had not been in trouble as far as anyone knows.
Despite the mystery surrounding his motivations, his victims and their families would like to be compensated for his actions.
His estate is worth approximately $5 million. That money would ordinarily go to his mother, since Paddock is not known to have had an estate plan. However, Paddock's family has indicated they have no interest in his estate.
There are some challenges to making sure that all the money goes to the victims.
The first is that the estate could be rolled into an existing victims' compensation fund that has already raised $22 million. However, all of the victims might not be eligible for compensation under the fund's rules.
The second challenge is that many victims are filing independent claims and lawsuits to the estate.
Reference: New York Times (Dec. 23, 2017) "The Las Vegas Gunman Was Rich. Will His Wealth Go to the Victims?"
Grandson takes issue with Manson’s friend and fan who claims he holds killer’s will.
While it would appear that there would be little interest in the estate of cult leader and murderer Charles Manson, a fight is developing, according to TMZ in "Charles Manson Grandson Files Probate Docs Manson's Body Still on Ice."
A fan and friend of Manson's named Michael Channels claims to have a will that Manson drafted designating Channels as the executor of the estate and as Manson's sole heir. Channels has previously vowed to fight anyone who challenges his claim.
Manson grandson Jason Freeman has accepted that challenge.
Freeman filed documents with the probate court requesting that a person of his choosing be appointed to administer Manson's estate. The two are also fighting over how to dispose of Manson's remains. His body remains in storage, until the court can determine which of the two men should be given possession of it for disposal.
Reference: TMZ (Dec. 8, 2017) "Charles Manson Grandson Files Probate Docs Manson's Body Still on Ice."
Manson drafted a will while in prison leaving everything to longtime pen pal.
Charles Manson’s will has been filed in court and an anonymous friend who would inherit his assets has been revealed to be Mark Channels, according to the Daily Mail in "Charles Manson's pen pal files the infamous killer's last will and testament in court after saying 'he'll go into the ring' if anyone challenges the document."
It turns out that Channels apparently worshipped Manson and even had a shrine to the cult leader in his home. Channels has already issued a warning to anyone who might contest the will and stated that he is prepared to fight for Manson's estate.
Manson does have a few living relatives who might want to contest the will. However, at the time of the article they had not done so. They still have roughly 100 days to file with the court, if they so choose.
Whoever inherits Manson's estate can expect to earn some money from collectors and could also see some money from music royalties.
Channels has vowed to fight any challenges to the will in court.
Reference: Daily Mail (Nov. 28, 2017) "Charles Manson's pen pal files the infamous killer's last will and testament in court after saying 'he'll go into the ring' if anyone challenges the document."
Photographer’s work was not known in her lifetime, but is recognized now.
A woman passed away in 2009 entirely unknown. She had no known heirs or estate plan. However, the value of her amateur photography has now sparked a copyright battle, according to PDN Pulse in "Federal Court Sustains Vivian Maier Copyright Claim."
Vivian Maier worked as a housekeeper and was poor. She stopped making payments in 2007 on a small storage locker she had in Chicago and the contents of the locker were auctioned off.
Included in the Chicago storage locker were a number of photographs and negatives that Maier had taken over the years. She apparently loved to take pictures of what she saw on the street.
However, Maier was not an ordinary amateur photographer.
She was brilliant and interest in her work grew immediately, when some of it was posted online.
Collectors began buying up her works, including a man named Jeffrey Goldstein. He began selling prints of the work and licensing the images for use.
Maier's estate sued Goldstein for copyright violations. Goldstein asked that the court dismiss the suit, since he claimed to have purchased the works before Maier passed away.
His request has been denied and the heirs will now benefit from her work.
Reference: PDN Pulse (Nov. 21, 2017) "Federal Court Sustains Vivian Maier Copyright Claim."
Marriage, divorce and remarriage sparks debate on veteran’s burial site.
A veteran of World War II recently passed away. Now two widows are fighting, according the Daily Mail in "Widows at war: British and American wives of war hero banker both want him buried in their own local cemetery - on opposite sides of the Atlantic - so they can visit his grave."
The saga begins with Paul Lewis Morigi fighting for the U.S. during World War II. While in England, he met and fell in love with Olive Murphy.
The two got married in 1944 and they divorced when Olive decided she did not want to move to America with him. She feared she would miss her family too much.
Morigi went on to be a successful banker and a very wealthy man. He also got remarried to an American, Muriel Morigi. They were married for 40 years and had two children together.
At the age of 92, Paul Lewis Morigi divorced Muriel and moved to England where he remarried Olive Murphy.
For now at least, the dispute between the two women does not appear to be over Morigi's assets but over where Morigi should be buried.
They both would like him buried close to them, so they can visit his grave easily. Of course, this could easily turn into a fight over his assets later.
It might have been wise of Morigi to leave burial instructions.
Reference: Daily Mail (Nov. 3, 2017) "Widows at war: British and American wives of war hero banker both want him buried in their own local cemetery - on opposite sides of the Atlantic - so they can visit his grave."
Mediation can reduce hard feelings between family members and may prevent a permanent rift.
A common way to prevent the chances of a permanent rift in a family over an estate disagreement, is for the court to send the parties involved to mediation, according to the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog in "Court Rejects Effort to Avoid Settlement Agreement."
When family members start fighting there is almost no way for there to be a civil intra-family estate dispute, unless the case goes to trial before a judge.
When family members start testifying against each other, it is extremely difficult for the wounds to heal. To avoid this problem, many courts prefer that families try to solve their disputes through other methods before a case goes to trial.
In mediation a trained, neutral third party attempts to facilitate an agreement between the parties to the dispute. A mediator will often try to get the parties to see the other person's side and to compromise.
Even when mediation does not instantly help the parties to reach an agreement, it often helps to clarify the issues. Many feuding family members do decide to reach post-mediation settlements.
Mediation does not always work. Some people feel that they are pressured into settling during mediation.
If estate litigation does it occur, it is wise to seek legal representation.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Oct. 25, 2017) "Court Rejects Effort to Avoid Settlement Agreement."
Woman does it herself and saves money, but estate and charities may end up paying the bill.
A decision by a woman in Australia to use a do-it-yourself will could end up costing her estate a lot of money, according to News.com.au in "Unholy row as court decides on religious woman's will."
Sandra Marie Hatton wanted to give most of her assets to charities that carry on religious work.
Hatton did not see an estate planning attorney to help draft her will, but used a do-it-yourself will form.
Hatton filled it out and then proceeded to make many handwritten changes to it, as she changed her mind about which charities to benefit.
The will itself has been accepted into probate as valid.
The court now also has to decide which of the handwritten changes to accept as valid.
The charities who could benefit from the decisions are all eager to stake their claim and lawyers will have to be hired by Hatton's estate to help in the case.
Do-it-yourself wills, whether purchased in a kit or online, offer people a way to save some money by cutting out estate planning attorneys.
Unfortunately, as is the case with Hatton's will, things can go wrong with DIY wills.
Reference: News.com.au (Oct. 15, 2017) "Unholy row as court decides on religious woman's will."
Jury has awarded money for damages. However, it appears likely the amount won’t hold up to court scrutiny.
JPMorgan has been ordered to pay plaintiffs $5 million in actual damages and $4 billion in punitive damages for a suit involving the handling of a complex estate that didn’t have an estate plan, according to Bloomberg in "JPMorgan Ordered to Pay More Than $4 Billion to Widow and Family."
The case began when Max Hopper, an American Airlines executive credited with creating an innovative reservation system, passed away and left an estate valued at $19 million.
Unfortunately, he did not have an estate plan.
JPMorgan was chosen to administer his complex estate. However, Hopper's widow and her stepchildren, angry at the way the bank was handling the estate, accused it of delaying distributions for its own benefit and sued.
A jury recently came down with the verdict that included $4 billion in punitive damages.
It is very likely courts will greatly reduce this punitive damage award, since the Supreme Court has previously ruled that punitive damages must be proportional to actual damages.
Nevertheless, this case highlights an important point.
Estate administrators can be held liable, if they do not faithfully carry out their duties.
The jury in this case believed that the bank was guilty of fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and breaking a fee agreement.
JPMorgan is a sophisticated entity that should have known better.
Reference: Bloomberg (Sep. 26, 2017) "JPMorgan Ordered to Pay More Than $4 Billion to Widow and Family."
Fraudulent bankruptcy, jail time and return the £300,000.
Julie Spalding, an elderly woman in the U.K., passed away and left her window cleaner her entire estate. Spalding’s nephew challenged the will in court and won, according to the Telegraph in "Window cleaner bequeathed £300,000 by customer faces jail for failing to hand money back to her family."
Spalding’s nephew had originally been the heir to her money, after years of caring for her. However, he said she then became belligerent with him. She then befriended the man who washes her windows. When she passed away, he was named in the will to receive her assets.
After hearing the case, the court ordered the window cleaner to pay back all of the money he had received from Spalding's estate.
He refused, however, and instead claimed he had already lost it all.
He even claimed that much of it had been in cash in his car, when the car was repossessed. To avoid given anything back, he obtained a bankruptcy judgment.
The window cleaner now appears to have been lying.
Through many small transactions, he transferred the money to his family members for safekeeping and opened many small bank accounts to stash some of the money.
He now faces possible jail time for his scheme.
The court case has been suspended, so that he can obtain legal representation.
Reference: Telegraph (Aug. 30, 2017) "Window cleaner bequeathed £300,000 by customer faces jail for failing to hand money back to her family."
Discovery at pet cemetery results in accusations against cemetery and crematorium in Illinois.
A family was apparently given the ashes from a different animal after they brought their pet’s remains to a cemetery and crematorium in Illinois, according to the Daily Mail in "Pet cemetery is accused of giving the ashes of random animals to grieving owners after dozens of decomposing carcasses were found in a freezer."
The accusations surfaced, when an animal rescue volunteer was searching for a missing dog at an Illinois pet cemetery that also had an attached animal shelter. He noticed a smell coming from a refrigerator on the property. Upon opening the door, the volunteer discovered the bodies of three dead animals.
One of the animals was a cat that had been implanted with a microchip.
The data on the microchip was read by local authorities. It was discovered that the cat belonged to a family whose pet had died three years previously.
It is not clear why the family was given the incorrect ashes or why the cat was never cremated at all.
Unfortunately, the owner of the cemetery committed suicide shortly after the police started their investigation. Therefore, the answers as to why, may never be known.
It is still possible that his estate could be sued and his family will have to be the ones to face legal consequences, instead of him.
Reference: Daily Mail (July 30, 2017) "Pet cemetery is accused of giving the ashes of random animals to grieving owners after dozens of decomposing carcasses were found in a freezer."