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The David Bowie Estate Shows His Genius Extended Beyond Music

Only a very few pop artists enjoyed lasting careers as diverse, colorful, and successful as David Bowie. He remained fascinating and on the cutting-edge, up until the very end, in ways that extended far beyond making music.David Bowie

Bowie, whose real name was David Robert Jones (and who didn't want to be confused with Davy Jones), passed away from liver cancer a mere two days after the release of his latest album, Blackstar, on his 69th birthday.  Knowing that his cancer was terminable, many people believe Bowie intended his last album -- featuring lyrics about mortality -- to be a farewell. In fact, the song Lazurus begins with the line, "Look up here, I'm in heaven," and ends with, "Oh, I'll be free ... Just like that bluebird ... Oh, I'll be free ... Ain't that just like me?"

It's fair to say there was no one else like David Bowie.  He was truly one-of-a-kind, from his iconic music, various personas, and his ever-adapting image, to his finances.  

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Celebrity Legacies: Conflicts Plagued Tupac Shakur Before And After Death

Tupac Shakur was well-known for his "Thug" image, his rap prowess, and his many Tupac Shakur's estateconflicts -- leading up to the tragic shooting that took his life at age 25. So should anyone be surprised at the high number of legal battles involving Tupac Shakur's estate? Or that Shakur could continue to be a pioneer in rap music, even years after his death?  Tupac-Shakur

This is installment #17 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.

Tupac Shakur came to fame in large part due to his battles with police, inspiring lyrics in his first solo release so violent that Dan Quayle publicly denounced them -- building Shakur's "Thug" image in the process. In the same time frame, he was arrested five times for violent crimes, leading to numerous criminal charges and civil lawsuits, culminating in a confrontation during which he was shot multiple times. The very next day, Tupac was sentenced to prison for molestation.

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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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Mark Zuckerberg And His Charitable Plan Deserve Praise, Not Scorn

As if founding Facebook  and reaching #16 on Forbes’ ranking of the world’s billionaires wasn’t impressive enough, Mark Zuckerberg – along with his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan — is out to change the world for generations to come.  But not everyone thinks his motives are pure.   Zuckerberg and Chan

Zuckerberg and Chan announced their decision to transfer 99% of their Facebook stock to a new charitable-based venture called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.  This will do this through a new limited liability company, with the stated purpose to “to join people across the world to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation.”  The stock will be handed over throughout their lifetimes, with no more than one billion dollars in stock gifted or sold annually for the next three years, according to a recent Facebook filing with the SEC.  Zuckerberg and Chan write that the value of the stock, presently, is about $45 billion, but that will likely grow over time considering their youth (Zuckerberg is 31; Chan is 30).

Zuckerberg and Chan believe that they have a “moral responsibility to all children in the next generation.” They point to society’s obligation to help future lives. By explaining their motivations to their newborn daughter, Max, through an open letter for the public to read on Facebook, Zuckerberg and Chan seek to encourage others to follow their charitable lead. Many public figures, like Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates, and others, quickly applauded the move.

But some questioned Zuckerberg and Chan’s charitable intent or even gone so far as to accuse them of tax evasion.   They claim that the tax benefit of donating appreciated assets, like Facebook stock, in a manner that avoids capital gains taxes on the appreciation harms society rather than benefiting it. They also point to the choice to use a limited liability company rather than a charitable foundation as proof of Mark Zuckerberg’s less-than-noble intent.

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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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