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January 2010

Forbes: Get Them Jamming On Estate Planning

Danielle Mayoras, who co-authored Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! with me, recently wrote an article for to help financial advisers, attorneys, and other professionals get their clients talking about estate planning, using celebrity stories.  Most people don't like to even discuss the legal planning for what happens after they die, much less actually do the planning. 

That's why celebrity stories can help break the ice and get the conversation started.  Here's her article with specific tips on how:

As professionals, one of the challenges that we have is motivating our clients to do their estate planning. You can educate clients about the proper estate planning and how it can help them, their families and their estate tax returns. The fact of the matter remains, however, that many clients will have excuses to push their legal planning to the back burner. Jimi Hendrix

Reasons that you may have heard include being too busy with kids, jobs or parents to take the time to do the planning. Others may be uncomfortable with the subject, have uncooperative spouses or simply have difficulty making decisions about who will be their trustees or beneficiaries. Whatever the reasons, procrastination is common when it comes to clients doing the proper estate planning, and this is one of the reasons that my husband, Andrew, and I wrote Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!

Celebrity stories can help you translate the often-challenging discussion about estate planning into a fun and entertaining conversation with your clients. Instead of clients examining their own lives, you can point to the stories ranging from Jimi Hendrix to Frank Sinatra and Princess Diana to help motivate them.

Despite a reluctance to get down to planning, many clients do have serious concerns. What will happen once mom and dad pass away? Have they done their will or trust? Is it updated? Where is it? What professionals do they work with? Where are the documents located? Here are five important areas in which you can get your clients thinking and talking about estate planning, partly with the help of a celebrity anecdote:

[Read the rest of the article on by clicking here]

Posted by:  Author and probate attorney Andrew W. Mayoras, co-author of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founder and shareholder of The Center for Probate Litigation and The Center for Elder Law in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law.  You can email him at awmayoras @

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The wars over the final wishes of Bill Davidson & Mel Simon

William Davidson and Melvin Simon had a lot in common.  Both were billionaires and both were Jewish.  Simon built his fortune through the country's biggest shopping mall company, Simon Property Group, and Forbes estimated his net worth at $1.3 billion.  Davidson led Guardian Industries Corp., one of the world's largest glass suppliers, and had a fortune recently tabbed at $4.5 billion. 

They also each owned NBA franchises in the midwest.  Davidson owned the Detroit Pistons (yeah!), while Simon co-owned the rival Indiana Pacers (boo!) with his brother, Herbert Simon. 

Both men died last year, with Davidson passing away at age 86 in March and Simon passing in October, at age 82.  And both were survived by spouses as well as children from prior marriages.

And, in both instances, the spouse and the children from the prior marriage did not see eye to eye.  Because of that, both the Davidson Estate and Simon Estate are mired in lawsuits about the true wishes of the beloved billionaires. 

Continue reading "The wars over the final wishes of Bill Davidson & Mel Simon" »

6 Tips to Avoid Exploitation of Elderly by Family Member

Danielle Mayoras was recently quoted in this interesting article by the Detroit Free Press about the growing epidemic of exploitation of the elderly.  It discussed a very sad case where a daughter took hundreds of thousands of dollars from her elderly mother and now is in jail saying the money is gone and she can't return it.Elderly woman

This is one example of how more and more families are facing the devastation caused by exploitation of elderly loved ones, often by a family member or caregiver.

So how do families protect their golden seniors, whose lifetime of savings can often be a tempting target for desperate or unethical people?  There are no magic answers, but here are a few Trial & Heirs Tips that we provided to the Detroit Free Press which ran next to the newspaper story:

Continue reading "6 Tips to Avoid Exploitation of Elderly by Family Member" »

Michael Jackson executors sorting through requests for money

It's been seven months since the King of Pop died suddenly at the age of 50, and fights surrounding his estate seem like they may last for many years to come.  Creditors are coming out of the woodwork, with new ones surfacing on a weekly basis.  The latest, a management company, joins a series of business, medical and spiritual advisers and others who insist they are owed money, totaling more than $20 million, already.  That total will certainly climb.Michael Jackson Trial and Heirs

The estate co-executors, John Branca and John McClain, have to sort through the requests for money and try to determine the legitimate ones from the ones that are, well, more fiction than fact.  It's common when someone wealthy and eccentric passes to have all sorts of people saying they are entitled to money.  (Jerry Garcia, James Brown, and Marlon Brando are a few notable examples that we cover in Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!). 

One of the more interesting requests is from Michael's father, Joe Jackson, who wants $15,000 per month in support.  He says that his famous son supported him financially while he was alive and that he doesn't really have any other source of income.  Executors Branca and McClain recently filed an opposition to the request.

Continue reading "Michael Jackson executors sorting through requests for money" »

The Revlon chairman's ill-fated family fortune fight

CNN's Fortune Magazine recently had a fascinating article about Ron Perelman's efforts to drag his paralyzed, infirm, and elderly ex-father-in-law through one of the most vicious estate battles we've seen in a while.Ron Perelman

Perelman built most of his billion-dollar fortune through a hostile takeover of Revlon.  In the process, he married and divorced four women, one of whom was Claudia Cohen (actress Ellen Barkin was another).  Cohen came from a wealthy family herself.  Her father and brother own and control Hudson Media, a powerful magazine company that is a long-time partner of Time, Inc. 

Sadly, Claudia died after a difficult fight with cancer in 2007.  Her will appointed Perelman as her executor.  She named Samantha Perelman, her teenage daughter from their marriage, as her primary beneficiary.

Claudia's will made her wishes very clear, including her strong desire to protect the relationship between Samantha and Claudia's father, Robert, and brother, James.

Continue reading "The Revlon chairman's ill-fated family fortune fight" »

Trial & Heirs' Whitney Houston story featured on Huffington Post

The Huffington Post recently ran this article featuring an excerpt from Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!


Whitney Houston is no stranger to family fights in court. In 2002, the entertainment company owned by her father, John Houston, sued her. John Houston said publicly that his company was owed $100 million and he expected his daughter to repay it. He died in February of 2003, and the case was dismissed not long thereafter.  Reportedly, Whitney Houston did not attend her father’s funeral service or burial. 

John’s wife, Barbara, filed her own lawsuit against Whitney in December of 2008. Whitney was the sole beneficiary of a $1 million life insurance policy of her late father.

Continue reading "Trial & Heirs' Whitney Houston story featured on Huffington Post" »