Competency Disputes Feed

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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Lessons Learned From The Tom Benson Competency Battle

As owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, Tom Benson, is used to being in control. He worked his way up from humble beginnings, starting as a used-car salesman, to owner of multiple car dealerships, banks, real estate, and a television station. Of course, Benson is most well-known for owning the NFL’s Saints franchise, which he purchased in 1985. Since then, he has successfully managed the Saints through the lows of Hurricane Katrina to the highs of winning the Superbowl. In 2012, Tom Benson added the NBA’s Hornets (now named the Pelicans) to his stable of businesses. Forbes estimates his net worth to be just shy of $1.9 billion.   Tom Benson

For a man with that much success and business acumen, there can be no doubt that one of the things he would enjoy least is someone suggesting he’d lost his wits. Especially when that someone is his hand-picked protégée and granddaughter, along with his daughter and grandson. And even more so when he is brought into court through a legal proceeding about whether he is competent enough to make even basic decisions about his person or property. Add in the media scrutiny that follows for a man of his stature and it is not surprising that Tom Benson is very unhappy.

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Family Members of B.B. King Are Singing The Blues

Blues great B.B. King passed away at age 89 years old Thursday, after suffering from diabetes and other health problems.  He leaves behind an unmatched musical legacy in the Blues genre, along with 11 surviving children and reportedly more than 50 grandchildren.B.B. King

Sadly, a dark cloud hung over the King family throughout his final days, due to a bitter dispute over the management of his care and money, involving what some claimed to be elder abuse.  The battle pitted his longtime business manager, Laverne Toney, against a handful of his children.

King fathered and adopted a total of 15 children, from several different marriages, but four had previously died.  Three filed a court action in Las Vegas alleging that their famous father was a victim of elder abuse at the hands of Toney. 

Karen Williams, Rita Washington, and Patty King said that Toney was not providing proper medical care to their father, restricted his children and friends from visiting, and that there were large amounts of money missing from King’s bank account.  In fact, the family said it could not account for more than one million dollars.  The three children asked the court to appoint an independent guardian for their father to protect him and his assets.

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Could Feud Over Saints Owner Tom Benson Happen In Your Family?

Yes, Tom Benson has a great deal more money and power than most of us.  How much?  Try $1.9 billion, according to the annual Forbes rankings.  Indeed, there are only 350 richer people in the whole country.  The successful owner of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, Benson built a wide-ranging empire of car dealerships, banks, various real estate holdings, and a television station.  He still actively participates in running his businesses — most of all his beloved Saints.  Tom-Benson-Saints-300x203

But for all of his wealth, prestige, and status, Tom Benson is in the midst of the same type of probate-related court battle that entangles many elderly individuals in our country.  Some of Benson’s heirs do not believe the 87-year-old is mentally competent to make his own decisions any more.  They are seeking to have him declared legally incompetent and protect him from what they claim is undue influence.

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Should Caregiver of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, Inherit His Fortune?

Widely beloved throughout the world of baseball, especially in Chicago, Ernie Banks -- a/k/a Mr. Cub -- rose from humble beginnings.  He began his career earning seven dollars a day in the Negro Leagues, before crossing the color barrier and becoming the Chicago Cubs’ most popular player ever.  Ernie Banks

After his playing career, Banks has been widely respected as a positive role model in baseball and beyond.  He continued to break new ground, becoming the first African-American Ford Motor Company dealer ever and being actively involved in charity work throughout his life after baseball.  In 2013, President Obama awarded Banks the National Congressional Medal of Honor.

Ernie Banks died on January 23rd at age 83 from a heart condition.  Interestingly, his death certificate listed dementia as a "significant condition contributing" to his death.  Why is this important?

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Celebrity Legacies: Marlon Brando's Estate Marred by Dozens of Lawsuits

Unquestionably, Marlon Brando was one of the leading actors of the 20th century.  The well-known Godfather was always in firm control ... until it came to his estate that is.  Marlon_Brando_The_Wild_One-225x300

This is installment #12 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.

Marlon Brando never followed convention.  He won his Oscar for Best Actor in 1973 for The Godfather, but Brando rejected the award as a protest to the treatment of Native Americans by the film industry.  Too bad he failed to follow the norms when it came to estate planning.

In part due to questions about his true intentions as expressed in his will and trust, Marlon Brando’s estate was involved in more than two dozens lawsuits by 2009 — five years after his death.  He passed away on July 1, 2004, at 80 years of age, suffering from a host of ailments including dementia and lung failure.

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The Tragic Life and Death of The Daughter of Zsa Zsa Gabor and Conrad Hilton, Francesca Hilton

Everyone loves a good rags-to-riches tale.  But Francesca Gabor Hilton’s life followed a dramatically different path.  Born to Hollywood star Zsa Zsa Gabor, and founder of the famed Hilton hotel dynasty, Conrad Hilton, Francesca was raised living in mansions, attending celebrity parties, earning blue ribbons in horse-riding competitions, and jet-setting to Rome and Paris, among other fashionable cities.  But her life was not as idyllic as it seemed.  Zsa-Zsa-Gabor-and-Francesca-Hilton1-300x242

Zsa Zsa Gabor wrote in her autobiography that Francesca was born following a pregnancy that resulted from rape by Conrad Hilton, her husband at the time.  The couple divorced before Francesca was born.  Francesca told the Los Angeles Times in 2007 that she spent Christmases and occasional upscale lunches with her father.  But their relationship was never close. When Conrad died in 1979, he left his only daughter $100,000 out of his estate, with most of the wealth earmarked for charity.  That doesn’t sound too bad, except that Conrad Hilton’s estate was worth about $200 million at the time, including massive Hilton Hotel stock interests.

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