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February 2010

Motion Magazine book review of Trial & Heirs

Review of "Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!" by Motion Magazine, part of

Anna Nicole Smith, Ray Charles, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger ...  what do they all have in common?Motion Mag photo 3

They were all celebrities, they’re no longer among the living, and they all can teach us a lesson.

At least according to husband and wife legacy expert attorneys Andrew W. Mayoras and Danielle B. Mayoras, authors of “Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!” The book dishes out drama using celebrity cases to highlight the importance of proper estate planning.

The Mayorases compiled and researched these high-profile celebrity cases with Danielle, who specializes in estate planning education, taking on the title of “Queen of Heirs” while Andrew used his probate litigation experience as “King of Trials.”

Satisfying readers’ voyeuristic side with the engaging stories of celebrity heir in-fighting isn’t the book’s only draw.

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The Elvis Presley Conspiracy (Part I): Is Elvis Alive?

One of my favorite lines from the movie Men in Black was:Elvis-presley

Agent Jay (Will Smith):  You do know that Elvis is dead, right? 

Agent Kay (Tommie Lee Jones):  No, Elvis is not dead.  He just went home.

That line has been running through my mind an awful lot lately.

It all began in the early days of the Probate Lawyer Blog, when I came across a Memphis newspaper story about a woman claiming that she was the secret half-sister of Elvis and that she had the DNA to prove it.  How did she get the DNA?  From Elvis, because he was alive.  She had sued to re-open the Estate of Vernon Presley (Elvis' father) to prove that Vernon was her father.

Continue reading "The Elvis Presley Conspiracy (Part I): Is Elvis Alive?" »

ABA Banking Journal Book Review of Trial & Heirs

Kim Fowler wrote this great review of "Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights" for the ABA Banking Journal:

When ABA Banking Journal called me about reviewing a new book dedicated to explaining wills and trusts, I was a bit skeptical. Executive Editor Steve Cocheo assured me, however, that it was right up my alley-a hysterically funny book about the world of fiduciary mayhem. (Is this guy crazy?)  TrialAndHeirsangle
Fortunately for Steve, a thousand miles separated him and my raised left eyebrow. Nevertheless, I agreed to read it. A few weeks later, I laughed out loud when I slid the book out of its packaging. The cover is plastered with colorful caricatures of rich and famous icons who serve as examples of "what-not-to-do" in the area of trust and estate planning. Once I turned to the first page entitled, "The ‘Official' Disclaimer," I knew I was in for a treat.
Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! by husband and wife team Andrew and Danielle Mayoras is by far the most educational and clever book I have read in a long time. While not in the genre of the typical book for "dummies," it is written in a manner that will keep trust novices, as well as seasoned professionals, interested until the very end. Broken into 26 easy-to-read chapters, the book takes us on a journey through a fiduciary world fraught with wild and crazy, sometimes dangerous, twists and turns.

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Dennis Hopper battling his wife; says she's after his will

Dennis Hopper was already fighting against advanced prostate cancer.  Now the 73-year-old actor is turning up the heat in his battle against his wife, 41-year-old Victoria.  He filed for divorce in January, and according to published reports, the key factor is his will.Dennis and Victoria Hopper

Victoria is a 25% beneficiary under Hopper's will.  But, in the case of divorce, the couple's prenuptial agreement says that she gets nothing.  And that's the sole motivating factor behind the divorce, according to Victoria.  She blames his three children from a prior marriage and says that Dennis is not making rational decisions, due in large part to the medication he's taking.

In other words, she says it's all about the estate planning. 

Continue reading "Dennis Hopper battling his wife; says she's after his will" »

Kiplinger's article: Cut the Lawyer out of your Will?

Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine has an interesting article that's coming out in the March 2010 issue, about do-it-yourself estate planning.  It was written by Jane Bennett Clark, Senior Associate Editor:

You’ve been dragging your feet for ages on writing a will and drawing up other estate-planning documents. Now, to avoid the hassle and expense of hiring a lawyer, you’re considering using online forms to get the job done. Companies such as Nolo, LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer allow you to do just that. Not only do they provide do-it-yourself estate-planning documents, but they also offer guidance on filling them out and general information on estate-planning issues. Kiplinger Personal Finance Magazine cover

The cost for such off-the-rack estate planning? As little as $50 for a simple will to $220 or so for a package that includes a will and a living trust. That’s cheap compared with the $300 a lawyer might charge for a simple will or the $1,000 or more that a comprehensive estate plan might run you. Still, you get what you pay for, says Danielle Mayoras, an estate-planning attorney and coauthor, with Andrew Mayoras, of Trial & Heirs(Wise Circle; $20 at Although the products themselves may be sound, one size doesn’t fit all, says Mayoras. “They don’t address as many what-ifs as if you had an attorney with you.”

Continue reading "Kiplinger's article: Cut the Lawyer out of your Will?" »

Heritage book review of Trial & Heirs

There was a great book review of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! that came out Friday.  Here's a portion of it:

"If you do nothing else of consequence for your life in 2010, make a will." TrialAndHeirsangle

According to University of Michigan graduates Andrew and Danielle Mayoras, both attorneys, two-thirds of Americans don't have one.

I do, and my editor has a trust, but an informal poll in the Heritage newsroom at an editorial meeting proved that of the nine people sitting there, two of us had a will.

And, truth be told, mine seriously needs updating.

Reading this book has compelled me to do something about it in a smarter way than I had done in the past.

The Detroit couple's book, "Trial and Heirs," will jump start you in the right direction, too. Not only is a fun read, but also an important one -- one that should become the basis of family meetings everywhere.

You'll learn why it's important for everyone to do estate planning. According to the authors, it protects families from fighting. They say the consequences of waiting to take care of it "someday" can be devastating.

The authors take what is a very dry subject and make it not only educational, but also interesting.

What's nice is there's not a lot of fine print to bog down readers in the process.

By taking estate cases of famous people and boiling them down to situations to which readers can relate, this book belongs in the library of every American over the age of 18.

You can read the entire review from Heritage Newspapers here.

Posted by:  Andrew W. Mayoras & Danielle B. Mayoras, co-authors of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founders and shareholders 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.  Andrew & Danielle are husband and wife attorneys.

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Judge rules that Feng Shui Master forged Nina Wang's will

The Nina Wang case captivated Asia in much the same way the Brooke Astor case made headlines in New York last year.  Only, instead of questions surrounding whether a multi-millionaire's will was invalid, the Nina Wang case involved whether Tony Chan Chun-chuen forged the will of Asia's richest woman, to the tune of about thirteen billion dollars, according to some estimates.  She died at age 69 in 2007.Nina_Wang 2

The case raged for months, and The Probate Lawyer Blog featured several articles about it.  The Hong Kong judge carefully deliberated since closing arguments took place in late September.  Earlier today, the High Court released the 326-page ruling that declared Wang's 2006 will to be a forgery.

Tony Chan contended that Wang had left him her fortune because, rather than being a mere feng shui adviser for her, he was also her secret lover.  Of course, he was married during the affair.  And he was 20 years younger than she was.

Lawyers for the Wang family and charities (the vast majority of her fortune from the prior will, in 2002, was earmarked for charity), said Chan forged the new will.  They also claimed, alternatively, that Chan had tricked her into signing it by declaring it to be a "feng shui will" that he was supposed to destroy as part of a ceremony to help extend her life.

If you're interested, you can read the Court's decision here (don't worry, the helpful Hong Kong Court also provided a much shorter summary of the long legal document which is also available through the same link).  Here are the highlights:

Nina Wang did have an intimate relationship with Tony Chan, but she wanted to keep it a secret.  Despite giving him lavish gifts and payments of money, she didn't want to give him her entire fortune.

Rather, she held true to her wishes in the 2002 will, leaving most of her wealth to charity.

Wang did, in fact, sign a new document in 2006.  But it wasn't the will Tony Chan said it was.  No -- that one was forged . . . through a "highly skilled simulation".  Instead, Wang signed a Specific Bequest Will leaving Chan $10 million (poor guy). 

The Judge didn't find Chan believable -- pointing to his criminal past, among other reasons.  Chan lied and withheld relevant information from the Court, the Judge said.  And, the 2006 will was written in English, not Chinese like the 2002 will.

The judge also said he didn't believe Chan's wife either, who also offered testimony to support the validity of the 2006 will.

Chan's lawyer already promised an appeal.  But, Chan has other concerns in the meantime.  Chan may be referred for criminal prosecution based on the finding of forgery.  And he won't even have the $10 million from the "Specific Bequest Will".  That partial will wasn't located and Chan didn't offer it for admission to the Court.  So he may not even get that amount.

The real irony here is that Chan's path is eerily similar to Nina Wang's.  Her husband was kidnapped in 1990 and was never found.  (In fact, that's how she met Chan -- he was supposed to help locate her husband).  After Wang's husband was declared dead, the father-in-law challenged the will that left Nina Wang everything. 

And, just like in this case, the will was found to be a forgery and Nina Wang was charged criminally.

But, Nina Wang ultimately won on appeal and was exonerated.  She inherited her husband's fortune, despite originally losing her case.  Will her feng shui master/former lover be as lucky on appeal?

Feb 4, 2010 Update -- Tony Chan has been arrested because of the ruling.  Read the story 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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