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Detroit Free Press article on celebrity estate fights

This past Sunday's Detroit Free Press featured an article, written by business columnist Susan Tompor, about "Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!" and how families can learn from celebrity estate fights.  Here's part of it:

What can you learn about estate planning from TMZ.com, the celebrity gossip site?  TrialAndHeirs_Book_angle

Plenty. Errors involving celebrity estates can motivate everyday families to talk ahead of time about who gets Mom's blown-glass collection -- long before things get overblown.

Or at least that's the theory being promoted by Troy attorneys Danielle B. and Andrew W. Mayoras.

"The reality is we're a celebrity-based culture, for better or worse," said Danielle, an estate planning attorney.

The couple, both partners at Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras in Troy, popped up last year on TV's "Rachael Ray Show" -- you can see the interview on YouTube.com -- to talk about their book, "Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!"

Andrew also has a blog, www.probatelawyerblog.com, that tracks the twists and turns in celebrity estate battles, such as the struggle over Michael Jackson's will and the potential tax nightmare facing the widow of slain NFL quarterback Steve McNair.

"The celebrity-gossip angle of the stories does make it more interesting for people," said Danielle.

Sure, celebrities live on another financial planet, and usually leave a lot more to fight over than the rest of us do.

They also can afford far more legal advice.

Anyone can make mistakes

Even so, "Trial & Heirs" and the blog show how anyone can mess things up when it comes to giving away their wealth after death.

Jackson, for example, died at 50 but had made a will and set up a trust for his children. But like so many everyday fathers or mothers, he didn't take the next key step -- funding the trust or re-titling his assets into it. Now, it's a family mess.

Danielle said Andrew's grandfather almost faced the same issue -- until she raised the issue with him.

Another bit of advice from the book: It is usually not advisable to choose your estate planning attorney to also serve as your trustee.

Sonny Bono, the Detroit native who made his name as a 1960s pop singer before entering politics and winning election to Congress, died in a skiing accident at age 62 without a will.

His widow had to deal with claims filed by creditors against his estate, including one filed by Sonny's second wife and original singing partner, Cher, who said she was owed money from their divorce.

And then a man came out of the blue and filed a legal claim saying he was Bono's son. A valid will -- which two out of three people don't have -- could have solved many problems, according to "Trial & Heirs."

The authors stress that estate plans need to be updated when couples divorce, have another child or have a family member with special needs.

You can read the full article here.

Posted by: Andrew W. Mayoras and Danielle B. Mayoras, co-authors of Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founders 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 and Danielle are husband and wife attorneys, professional speakers and consultants across the country.

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