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June 2010

Forbes: Celebrity Death and Divorce Train Wrecks recently featured an article we wrote about our celebrity-based Trial & Heirs' Top Five Estate Planning Tips for Divorcees.  Here's a shortened version.  Go to for the full article: Forbes_home_logo

1. Update your will and/or trust. Life events like divorces are a critical time to update all estate planning documents with an experienced attorney.

Take the case of Gary Coleman.  Since his death, a variety of documents have surfaced purporting to be his will.  We know that Gary Coleman was divorced in 2008 from his wife, Shannon Price.  It was on an episode of Divorce Court after all!  The problem is that Price claims that she's entitled to inherit all of Coleman's assets based on a 2007 handwritten will and as his "common-law wife."  Now it looks like the estate will be tied up in a long and nasty fight.  If Gary Coleman had an estate planning attorney draft a clear will after his divorce, the impending legal battle may have been avoided.

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Michael Jackson Estate Battles - the Year in Review

The one year anniversary of Michael Jackson’s shocking death on June 25, 2009 is upon us. While his music and thriller dance moves live on, unfortunately, so do the legal battles over his estate.  Let’s moonwalk backwards through the past 12 months to review the courtroom clashes and combative issues involving the King of Pop’s estate.

June 25, 2009 – Michael Jackson unexpectedly diesMichael Jackson Trial and Heirs at the age of 50 as he is about to embark on a comeback concert tour.

June 29 – Katherine and Joe Jackson, Michael’s parents, file to open the probate estate of Michael.  They allege that he died without a will and ask for Katherine to be appointed to administer his estate.  Katherine filed to be appointed as guardian of Michael’s three children the same day and is granted temporary authority to assume custody of them.

July 1 – John Branca, Michael’s former attorney, and John McClain, his former manager, file their own probate petition, asking the Judge to appoint them as executors of Michael’s estate based on a will Michael signed July 7, 2002.  The will names Katherine as the person Michael wanted to care for his children, with Diana Ross as the back-up.  The assets are left to the Michael Jackson Family Trust.  Estimates of the estate’s value exceed $500 million, despite reports that there was so much debt to render Michael Jackson insolvent.

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Florida millionaire left more to her dogs than her son

Apparently Leona Helmsley is not alone.  Gail Posner of Miami Beach, Florida passed away in March at the age of 67, from cancer.  Her only son, Bret Carr, was left one million dollars, despite not being close with her in the years leading up to her death.  They did reunite while she was on her deathbed, in the hospital, according to CarrGai Posner.

So should Carr really complain?  A million dollars isn't so bad.

The first problem, says Carr, is that his mother's three dogs received a $3 million trust fund and a $8.3 million mansion.  But who can put a price on loyalty?

There's more.  Posner's former staff (including bodyguards, a personal trainer and housekeepers) get $27 million.  Wow -- that's some severance package!

Carr says he and his mother had a rocky relationship, but grew closer in the last decade or so, until 2008.  What happened then?  The staff kicked him out of Posner's house and convinced his mother to keep him away.  He says he captured it all on video.

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Lawyers for Ron Perelman hit with sanctions for frivolous case

The Chairman of Revlon, Ron Perelman (who is one of the richest men in the world), recently lost a very heated and ugly probate lawsuit (or more specifically, several different lawsuits), in which he sued on behalf of his ex-wife's estate.  Claudia Cohen had named Perelman as her executor shortly before she died in 2007.  Ron Perelman 2

So who did Perelman sue?  None other that the father of his ex, Robert Cohen, who was infirm, partially paralyzed and in his eighties at the time.  The Probate Lawyer Blog's article discussing the case has all the details.

We found the case, and Perelman's efforts in particular, especially troubling.  And we certainly aren't the only ones.

In fact, the New Jersey judge who presided over the case recently ruled that Perelman's lawyers are to be sanctioned because some of the claims they filed were frivolous.  He specifically took issue with their claims Cohen should not be permitted to change his estate plan because he had allegedly "promised" his daughter (who later died) an equal share of his estate.

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More Gary Coleman wills ... and yes, more fighting

The craziness surrounding the Gary Coleman estate, a mere two weeks after he passed, continues to grow.  We now have not one -- but two -- new wills that recently surfaced.Gary Coleman

As The Probate Lawyer Blog recently discussed, Coleman's ex-wife, Shannon Price, produced a new handwritten codicil (meaning a will amendment) that favors her.  Dated about one week after the couple married in 2007, the document, in Coleman's handwriting, spelled out that everything should pass to Price. 

TMZ has obtained and posted a copy of the handwritten will.  One part of it is very interesting:

"I have made this change of free will and and was not coerced in any way.  This I have done because of my personal selfishness and weakness and I love her with all of my heart."

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More fireworks for the Gary Coleman Estate

The Probate Lawyer Blog posed the question a few days ago:  Will there be a fight over Gary Coleman's estate?  It looks like we have an answer -- a resounding "Yes!".Willis-and-arnold

And it all centers around Gary Coleman's final wishes.  The 1999 will has been released.  You can download Gary Coleman's Will (courtesy of TMZ). 

It's very brief (all of a page and a half), and it appoints his friend Dion Mial as executor and directs that all of his assets be turned over to a trust he created called the Millennium Edge Trust. 

It also states that he should be cremated and that only those with no "financial ties" to him be invited to his wake.  Coleman wants them to "look each other in the eyes and say they really cared personally for Gary Coleman."  And no members of the press are invited!

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Michigan Bar Journal Review of Trial & Heirs

The State Bar of Michigan's montly journal has recently reviewed our book, Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!.  Here are some of the highlights:

After reading Trial & Heirs, I am convinced that I need an estate plan. It’s time to get serious about, you know, death.  Danielle and Andrew Mayoras, Michigan estate-planning attorneys who are married to each other, have written a lighthearted book. But a reader can’t miss what they’re really talking about: the dreaded D-word. Isn’t the whole point of estate planning to plan for your own inevitable death? Luckily, the Mayorases probably agree with Bugs Bunny: “Don’t take life too seriously; no one gets out alive.”

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