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July 2010

Estate of Bobby Fischer facing a possible Checkmate

The New York Times recently featured a story about the person universally recognized as one of the greatest chess players of all time.  Robert James "Bobby" Fischer died from kidney disease on January 17, 2008 at the age of 64.  He was buried in Iceland, where he lived for the last few years of his life.Bobby-fischer

He was a King in the game of chess and his life was anything but conventional.  So why should Fischer's estate be simple?

Fischer scorned his 1972 world chess championship, renouncing it in 1975.  He retreated from the world and turned his back on fame and fortune. 

When he finally emerged for a rematch in 1992, he became a national fugitive.  Why?  Fischer ignored government warnings not to play the match in Yugoslavia, because of a trade embargo.  This made him a criminal.  He found refuge in Iceland, which granted him citizenship and prevented deportation.

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Lucille Ball's daughter fights to save heirlooms

I Love Lucy star Lucille Ball died more than 20 years ago -- on April 26, 1989, at the age of 77.  So why did her daughter rush to court last week to save awards, love letters and other personal items of the famous comedienne?Lucille_Ball

Reportedly, when Lucille passed, she left love letters between she and her first husband, Desi Arnaz, along with her lifetime achievement awards, photographs and other items to Lucille and Desi's daughter, Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill.  But, apparently, Luckinbill never claimed the items from Lucille's estate and lost them.

So they ended up in the hands of Susie Morton.  Morton is the widow of Gary Morton, who was Lucille Ball's second husband.  After Lucille passed, these items, along with a Rolls-Royce, were passed to Gary Morton, and then onto Susie after Gary died.

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George Steinbrenner's heirs avoid estate tax - or do they?

Baseball pioneer George Steinbrenner, owner of the famed New York Yankees' franchise, died from a heart attack on July 13, 2010, at age 80.  Checking in at number 341 on Forbes' list of richest Americans last year, the Steinbrenner fortune has been estimated at $1.1 billion.George Steinbrenner

Many publications, including the New York Post, have pointed out that, tax-wise, Steinbrenner chose a great year to die.  Due to a quirk in the federal estate tax law, there are no estate taxes for those who die in 2010. 

Those who died in 2009 paid a 45% tax for every dollar over $3.5 million ($7 million for married couples who did the proper estate tax planning).  There are no estate taxes this year, but next year, the estate tax comes roaring back with only a $1 million exemption and a 55% tax rate.

As the Post article and others have pointed out, this led to a huge tax savings for Steinbrenner's widow and four children of $500 million (based on 2009 levels) or $600 million (compared to the 2011 limit).  Not bad!

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Steve McNair Estate unsettled after one year

It's been just over a year since Steve McNair, the former NFL quarterback, was murdered on July 4, 2009, at the age of 36.  The Probate Lawyer Blog covered the initial drama surrounding the estate in a series of articles.  In the months that have passed since then, the estate has been relatively quiet.  It's been rather surprising given the early fireworks last summer.Steve McNair and son

McNair died with an estate worth more than $19 million but without even a basic will.  It looked like trouble initially when his wife named their two kids as estate beneficiaries in the probate paperwork, but failed to list his other two kids (from two other mothers).  The family was far from harmonious even before McNair was killed.

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Trial over L'Oreal heiress sparks French political scandal

It's been more than 18 months since the daughter of France's richest woman sued to protect her from a man described as a "dandy" who had received more than $1 billion (U.S. value) in gifts from the owner of cosmetic giant L'Oreal.  You can read The Probate Lawyer Blog's last article on the case here.Lillianebettencourt

The daughter of 87-year-old Liliane Bettencourt sued Francois-Marie Banier, a 63-year old (male) celebrity photographer who reportedly has befriended Johnny Depp, Salvador Dali and others.  Banier claims the lavish gifts of cash and art masterpieces were given to him by Bettencourt when she was mentally competent as a thank-you for his years of friendship and help as an advisor.

Bettencourt's daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, was permitted to sue Banier criminally last year.  This means that if she wins her lawsuit, Banier will not only have to return the money, but also face jail time.  The case was set for trial late last week.

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