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Pass The Turkey With A Side Of MORE Celebrity Estate Planning Stories (Part II)

Did you know that family gatherings during the holidays are a great time to talk about celebrities, such as Whitney Houston, and how they can help your family avoid fighting when someone dies?  

This is Part 2 of Trial & Heirs’ Top 5 Celebrity-Based Estate Planning Conversation Starters for Thanksgiving 2011:

(Did you miss Part 1?  Click here.)

3. Whitney Houston   Whitney_Houston-_Just_Whitney_Cover

Whitney Houston has been locked in a vicious court battle with her step-mother over a $1 million life insurance policy from Whitney’s father, which named Whitney as the sole beneficiary.  Whitney’s step-mother, Barbara, sued Whitney and claimed the money was meant for her, not Whitney.  Whitney had lent her father money and held a private mortgage over his home, which Barbara received when Whitney’s father died in 2003.  Barbara said the life insurance was meant to repay that money and Whitney was supposed to release the mortgage and turn the rest of the life insurance money over to Barbara.

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Will Estate Taxes Force Al Davis' Family to Sell The Oakland Raiders?

Al Davis, the long-time principal owner and general manager of the Oakland Raiders, passed away this weekend at age 82. As this article on Forbes points out, estate taxes are a huge concern for NFL football owners, including the Davis family.  Those taxes led to the sale of the St. Louis Rams in 2008 and the Miami Dolphins in the mid-90′s.  Al Davis

For those who pass away this year, the tax tops out at 35% for those with the highest level of assets, like Davis.  Too bad the Davis family wasn’t as lucky as the Steinbrenner family, which avoided the taxes altogether, since 2010 was the one year there were no estate taxes.

The day after Davis passed away, NBC Sports already reported from “a source with knowledge of the situation” that Davis used thorough estate and succession planning to protect his beloved Oakland Raiders from leaving the family.  Reportedly, his widow, Carol, and his son, Mark Davis, will take over control of the team.  The San Francisco Chronicle wrote a similar report Saturday night, quoting team chief executive, Amy Trask.

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Can Simon Cowell Really Have His Body Frozen After He Dies?

Simon Cowell, the former American Idol judge famous for freezing contestants in their tracks with his biting critiques, now says he wants to freeze more than that … his body.  After he dies, of course.   Simon Cowell

In this recent interview with GQ Magazine, Cowell explains why he’d like to have his body cryonically frozen:

“It’s an insurance policy.  If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.  If it does work, I’ll be happy.  If it’s possible, and I think it will be, why not have a second crack?  Does that sound crazy?  I think it’s a good idea.

I have a feeling that if I don’t do it now, I could regret this in 300 years’ time.”

Setting aside the moral, ethical, and practical considerations of freezing someone’s body in case medical research can ever find a way to restore life, what kind of legal complications can this cause for the family?

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Dementia claims baseball legend Sparky Anderson

Former baseball manager George "Sparky" Anderson, a Hall of Fame coach who led both the Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds to World Series titles, died on November 4, 2010 because of complications from dementia.  He was 76 years old.  Sparky was a truly-beloved sports figure who will be sorely missed, as described in this article from the Detroit Free Press. Sparky

His death comes during National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness month.  Dementia is most often caused by Alzheimer's disease and is a growing epidemic in our country.  In fact, every 70 seconds, someone else in America develops Alzheimer's disease.  It now affects over 5.3 million Americans.

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Bill Davidson's estate settles lawsuits

The Detroit Free Press featured an article recently about the lawsuits surrounding the estate of the late owner of the Detroit Pistons, Bill Davidson.  You can read our prior article about the estate here.Bill Davidson and Pistons

The estate of the late William Davidson has been the target of at least three lawsuits seeking to wrest at least $20 million from the fortune left by the billionaire businessman and owner of the Detroit Pistons -- a hazard that one attorney said is the result of being very rich and dead.

Of the three suits filed in Oakland County Circuit Court, all have been quietly settled, according to court records and attorneys involved. Details of the settlements have not been revealed.

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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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