Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes that Keep on Giving–to the Wrong Person

My dad was a life insurance salesman. I remember rummaging around in his sales materials and finding a service he subscribed to that reported on the estate tax problems of the rich and famous and even the not-so-famous. He used the  reports to make the point that his prospective clients needed to do some estate and insurance planning, so their families wouldn’t face similar fates.

I was reminded of this when I stumbled upon this 2013 article from Forbes, “Monumental Estate Planning Blunders of 5 Celebrities.” The piece details the woes of rocker Jim Morrison, Rat Pack icon Sammy Davis Junior, hotelier Leona Helmsley,  QB Steve McNair, and, my favorite sad story, actress Marilyn Monroe:

Some celebrities have erred by not going far enough with their estate planning. For instance, famous actress and model Marilyn Monroe left most of her estate to her acting coach, Lee Strasberg.

“She left him three-fourths of her estate, and when he died, his interest in Marilyn’s estate went to his third wife, who did not even know Marilyn. Marilyn’s mistake was not putting her assets in trusts,” says Nass.

Strasberg’s third wife, Anna, eventually hired a company to license Monroe’s products, which involved hundreds of companies including Mercedes-Benz and Coca-Cola. In 1999, many of Monroe’s belongings were auctioned off, including the gown she wore to President John F. Kennedy’s birthday party, for more than $1 million. Strasberg ended up selling the remainder of the Monroe estate to another branding company for an estimated $20 million to $30 million, according to a remembrance of the star by NPR in 2012.

It’s unlikely Monroe would have wanted someone she didn’t know to profit so handsomely from her belongings. A trust would have provided for Strasberg while he was alive and then after his death could have directed the remainder of her estate to someone of her choosing.

Yes, I imagine was very unlikely that she wantedStrasberg’s 3rd wife to laugh all the way to and from the bank. But poor planning allowed that to happen.

Estate Planning Seminar at Pleasant Grove Library

I’ll be presenting a seminar on DIY — Do It Yourself — Estate Planning at the Pleasant Grove Library on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at 7 PM. Come an enjoy the discussion. The address is 30 E Center St, Pleasant Grove.

If you have a question about wills, trusts, and other aspects of estate planning, maybe I can answer it.

Enforcing Charitable Pledges: Well, You Said You Would Give Them Money. What Did You Expect?

An interesting piece at Wealthmanagement.com about how and why charities seek to enforce charitable pledges and what theories courts use to accommodate their claims. The first two paragraphs are key:

In August, it was widely reported in the media that Duke University had filed a claim against the estate of Aubrey McClendon, the former CEO of Chesapeake Energy Corp., for payment of nearly $10 million in outstanding charitable pledges, once again raising the question of whether and to what extent charitable pledges are legally enforceable.

States typically rely on one of three theories to find that a charitable pledge is enforceable.  A pledge may be enforceable as a bilateral contract, as when a donor pledges a sum of money in exchange for the charity’s naming a building after the donor.1 A second theory treats a charitable pledge as a unilateral contract.  A donor offers to make a gift in the future that’s accepted when the charity incurs a liability in reliance on the offer.2When the charity provides no consideration for a contract, a pledge may be enforceable under the doctrine of promissory estoppel, an equitable remedy applied when a charity would suffer damages if the pledge weren’t enforced.

The rest of the piece is worth a read, especially if you’re interested in how the law is developing or in why charities should care about those developments.

Oh! Not Again! The Need for Ancillary Probate

As we’ve discussed elsewhere, in an almost knee jerk way, people want to avoid probate. And for some good reasons. But what if I told you there were a possibility your heirs might have to go through two or even three probates? It’s true. If you own titled property, especially real estate, in another state than the one you live and die in, your personal representative is probably going to have to file probate papers in all the states where that property is located. And with that comes the added expense of additional attorneys and such.

It’s called ancillary probate, ancillary because its subsidiary or supplementary to the larger probate, the one in your state of residence where presumably most of your property is located. You can avoid ancillary probate a variety of ways. If the out-of-state property is real estate, you could simply make sure that another person is on the deed with you with rights of survivorship. That way, when you die, the property passes automatically to that person, without probate.   Or you could title the property using a so-called transfer on death deed, which are allowed in a number of states. Or you could hold the property in a revocable or living trust.

The trust approach is my preferred method because, unlike the other methods, this one makes it easier to direct the property to where you want it to go once the property is held in the name of the trust.

Get Your (Valuation) Discounts Now!

Two weeks ago, the Treasury Department released proposed IRS Code Section 2704 valuation regulations that, as proposed, will dramatically change the discounts currently allowed, including so-called minority and marketability discounts. Thus, gift and estate tax planning strategies that rely on such discounts to transfer property from one individual to another via the use of limited liability companies, family limited partnerships, and other such entities may not work so well in the future.

The IRS has scheduled hearings on the proposed regulations for December 1, 2016. Sometime after that hearing the regulations will become final; thus, anyone planning on taking advantage of such discounts has little time to waste.

As I learn more about the proposed changes, I’ll follow-up on this blog. If you can’t wait that long, the AICPA has a number of helpful resources.

Trustees and Beneficiaries: More Good News than Bad?

I really like the idea behind “The Positive Story Project,” a new monthly column at Wealthmanagement.com. Here’ the first three paragraph from the opening salvo:

My goal in writing this column is to focus thinking within our community of practitioners—important players in the transfer of wealth to younger generations.   And, with so much at stake for our clients and their families—a good deal more than preservation of financial assets—let’s make this column a conversation.

Can the widespread dissatisfaction and all the talk of “problem” beneficiaries and “problem” trustees, give way to more creative and productive relationships?  I say:  “Absolutely.”  And, if your intuition is the same as mine, the harder question becomes “how do we get from here to there?”

To begin to find out, my colleague, Kathy Wiseman, and I have been going to the source—beneficiaries, trustees and their advisors—asking them for positive stories about moments in time when their relationships have worked well.  I’ll discuss what can be learned from these individuals and their stories in this column each month.

I look forward to more on this subject, both to help me as a practitioner and to inspire my clients and potential clients to use trusts to better carry out their wishes.

Happy Birthday to It

It doesn’t look a day over . . . : The estate tax turns 100.

Estate Planning? I Don’t Have Time . . .

Why doves cry. Half of Prince’s estate to go to government.

Gonna Be a Prince of a Mess

Well, I guess since Prince didn’t have one, you don’t need one either . . .

Prince’s sister has said the superstar musician had no known will and that she has filed paperwork asking a Minneapolis court appoint a special administrator to oversee his estate.

Something tells me this will neither go smoothly nor end well.

(You Gotta) Plan to Be a Rothschild

From Bloomberg:

“For more than a half-century, Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage has been a Harvard Square institution. Six days a week, college students line up around the block for creations that include the People’s Republic of Cambridge, a hamburger topped with coleslaw and Russian dressing, and the Chris Christie, which is fortified with marinara sauce and mozzarella. General Manager Bill Bartley was born in 1960, the same year his father, Joe, started the Cambridge, Mass., restaurant. Although all four of his siblings have worked there at some point in their lives, Bill is the only one still there. ‘I was groomed to take over, like a veal calf,’ he jokes. ‘They kept me in that confined area in the kitchen so I didn’t get too big.’

“Mr. Bartley’s is somewhat of a rarity: Only about a third of family-owned businesses survive into the second generation, 12 percent make it into the third, and a mere 3 percent to the fourth, according to the Family Business Institute. ‘Succession planning has become a hot item with every organization we work with,’ says Castle Wealth Advisors’ Gary Pittsford, an Indianapolis-based financial planner. ‘There are more than 27 million closely held businesses, and baby boomers are now in that 65 to 70 age bracket. There’s upwards of 5 million boomer owners trying to figure out what to do.’”

LinksI’ve read similar statistics year in and year out, and yet family business succession planning–including succession on family farms and ranches–remains an issue. I’m guessing those who haven’t done it, but should, have two reasons or excuses: 1. I’m too busy right now, and 2. it costs too much.

In response to the first, I’d remind them, none of us have time; we’re all very busy. And that will never change, so you’re going to have to change your priorities.

In response to the second reason, I’ll repeat what I’ve said before, because it obviously needs saying again: if you think succession planning costs too much, you ought to see what it costs when you  don’t do it. Remember this little fact from the quote above:

 “Only about a third of family-owned businesses survive into the second generation, 12 percent make it into the third, and a mere 3 percent to the fourth . . .”

I don’t have the facts at hand, but I’ll bet those businesses that make it to the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generations are successively much better off than the same business in the generation before.

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