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Gene Wilder And His Struggle With Alzheimer's Highlight Estate Planning Lesson

The death of Gene Wilder saddened Willa Wonka fans across the globe — not to mention fans of  Blazin’ Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and many others.  When his family issued a statement saying that Alzheimer’s disease claimed his life, it served as a valuable lesson.  Alzheimer’s disease is a killer.  As Wilder’s family aptly described it, it’s an “illness-pirate.”   Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder is far from the first famous actor to fall victim to Alzheimer’s.  Jimmy Stewart, Peter Falk, Charlton Heston, and Rita Hayworth are just a few others.  And of course the disease has attacked celebrities from many different industries, including Hollywood producers like Aaron Spelling, politicians like Ronald Reagan, singers like Etta James and Glen Campbell, and sports celebrities like basketball coach Pat Summitt and ball manager Sparky Anderson.

Sadly, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.  It always leads to death.  While the official cause-of-death for most celebrities who suffered from the disease is usually listed as another affliction, such as a pneumonia or sepsis, Alzheimer’s disease is the real culprit for millions of Americans, causing the brain to decline until the body succumbs.  Gene Wilder’s bout with it is notable because his family attributed his death entirely to Alzheimer’s disease, whereas in most celebrity deaths it is listed only as a contributing factor, if at all.

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Bill Cosby Headlines The Top Ten Celebrity Legal Battles Of 2015

What better way to start the new year than by counting down Trial & Heirs Top Ten Celebrity Legal Battles of 2015, complete with lessons?  Bill Cosby

1.    Bill Cosby vs. many woman - Andrea Constad is one of dozens of women who have sued Cosby for defamation, accusing the comedian and actor of lying when he denied sexually abusing them years ago.  In Constad's civil lawsuit, Cosby's deposition was unsealed, revealing that he admitted giving women quaaludes and having intercourse with them.  He says both the drug use and sex were consensual.  Recently, a Pennsylvania district attorney brought charges against Cosby for sexual assault based on the 2004 encounter with Constad.

Lesson:  When victims of assault or other injuries wait too long, they lose the right to sue under the statute of limitations.  The specific length of time varies based on what state the events happened in and what type of claim is brought.  That's why most of the accusers are suing Cosby for defamation, rather than sexual assault.  Even criminal cases have a time limitation on when cases can be brought.  This new criminal case against Cosby was brought not long before the 12-year statute of limitations expired.  Anyone who feels they have a claim to sue, for assault or any other reason, should act promptly and not wait until it is too late.


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Can Prenuptial Agreement Protect Kaley Cuoco From Ryan Sweeting's Support Request?

The news broke recently that the divorce proceeding between Big Bang Theory actress Kaley Cuoco and professional tennis player Ryan Sweeting just became a great deal more complicated than originally reported.  Kaley Cuoco and Ryan Sweeting

Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising.  After all, Cuoco recently was named as Forbes’ highest paid TV actress for 2015 (in a tie with Sofia Vergara), with $28.5 million in earnings, including an impressive payday of one million dollars per episode.  Comparatively, Sweeting  — who boasts only one career tournament win and has been battling injuries — has an estimated net worth of only two million dollars, about $42 million less than Cuoco’s reported net worth.

So why should anyone be surprised that the spouse worth less is asking for financial support from the big bread winner?

Kaley Cuoco played a smart game from the start. Even though she and Ryan Sweeting were married after only six months of dating, Cuoco and Sweeting had a prenuptial agreement, signed on November 20, 2013 — more than a month before their wedding on December 31, 2013. With a good prenup in place, a drawn-out match over financial issues like spousal support can be largely avoided.

Note the important qualifier here — “largely” avoided is not “completely” avoided. The existence of a prenuptial agreement does not end the match. It certainly gives Cuoco a big lead in the battle over spousal support though.

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Celebrity Legacies: James Dean Estate Has A Cause

James Dean was the iconic rebel without a cause.  The James Dean Estate, on the other hand, has been driven by a cause -- maximizing the value of his image and likeness.  But was it taken too far when his heirs sued Twitter?  James Dean

This is installment #16 of our Estate Planning Lessons From The Stars series, which is based on the Celebrity Legacies TV show for which we provide commentary as the estate legal experts.  See other articles in the series here.

Perhaps no Hollywood legend has lasted so long, and left such an impact, as James Dean.  After dying in a tragic car crash at age 24, in 1955, Dean continued to appear among the top of highest earning deceased celebrities year after year, including being in the top ten as recently as 2012, when his estate earned about five million dollars.  Not bad for actor who only starred in three major films.

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Celebrity Legacies: No Easy Ride For Dennis Hopper's Estate

When is a divorce more than just a divorce?  When famed actor Dennis Hopper battled through an ugly divorce against his fifth wife, Victoria Duffy-Hopper, the battle was more about Dennis Hopper's estate than anything else.  So perhaps no one should be surprised that the war turned uglier once Dennis died.  Easy-rider-dennis-hopper

This is installment #15 of our Estate Planning Lessons From The Stars series, which is based on the Celebrity Legacies TV show for which we provide commentary as the estate legal experts.  See other articles in the series here.

The Easy Rider star had anything but an easy ride during the last few months of his life.  He passed away from cancer at age 73, smack-dab in the middle of his divorce war with Victoria, who was actually six years younger than Dennis Hopper's oldest daughter.

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Answering Questions About Whitney Houston's Millions And Bobbi Kristina's Death

After a six-month coma, the life of Whitney Houston's daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, has tragically ended.  Just how tragic her short life really was may not be known for some time.  But the details that have emerged are nothing short of heart-wrenching, if the allegations of a recently-filed lawsuit filed on behalf of Bobbi Kristina prove to be true.  Bobbi Kristina

According to that lawsuit, Whitney Houston's millions were at the heart of this tragedy.  But what role did they really play in Bobbi Kristina's death?

It was on January 31, 2015 that Bobbi Kristina was found unresponsive, unconscious, and face down in a bath tub.  That was nearly three years from the day her mother famously drowned, also in a bathtub.  Bobbi Kristina was placed into a medically-induced coma and reportedly suffered severe brain damage.

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Casey Kasem's Daughter Fights For New Guardianship Visitation Laws

Kerri Kasem, the daughter of the late American Top 40 DJ, Casey Kasem, has been on a mission to make sure what happened to her and her siblings does not happen to others. When her father’s health deteri  orated from Parkinson’s disease, it sparked an ugly court battle between his children and his wife, Jean Kasem, which did not end until he died.  By then, Casey Kasem was suffering from serious bed sores, a urinary tract infection, and sepsis.   Casey-and-Kerri-Kasem-300x277

Kerri Kasem feels that her father’s death could have been prevented if she and her siblings had been able to see him and monitor his care better, but there were not sufficient protections in the law to help.

Until recently, not a single state in the United States offered specific protection to relatives of loved ones who were under court-ordered guardianship or conservatorship to make sure they could remain in contact with their incompetent loved one.  Rather, the person named as guardian or conservator typically controlled visitation and contact, which could include denying contact altogether.  That’s still the case in 48 states.

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