Elder Law Feed

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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How The Supreme Court Gay Marriage Ruling Impacts Estate Planning

As gay, lesbian, and other proponents of same-sex marriages celebrate the United States Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, millions of Americans will now be eligible for dramatically different legal rights upon the death or disability of a life partner than were previously possible.  DeBoer and Rowse

In fact, in the field of estate planning -- including planning for not only what happens when someone dies but also when someone becomes incapacitated -- the landscape in the LGBT community has just changed.  Gay and lesbian couples now have a level playing field, equal to opposite-sex couples.

The legal implications are far-ranging, from symbolic, to monetary, to life-changing.  In fact, the Supreme Court opinion in Obergefell illustrates this by sharing the stories of three sets of plaintiffs involved in that case.

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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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What's Driving The B.B. King Estate Feud?

The late Riley B. King — better known as blues legend B.B. King — often said that the only woman in his life was his guitar, Lucille.  But that wasn’t exactly true.  King estimated that he had 15 children by 15 different women.  No wonder one of his biggest hits was called, When Love Comes To Town.   B.B.-King

B.B. King took responsibility for his children.  According to CNN, he set up a multimillion dollar education fund for his descendants.  King wrote in his memoir that he assumed responsibility every time a woman came to him and said a child was his, without arguing about whether that was true or not.  One of his daughters, Patty King, said in a previous interview with Rolling Stone that B.B. King was a great dad who had “done well” by his children.

That same daughter is now leading the charge against B.B. King’s business manager of 39 years, LaVerne Toney.  Patty King and half-sister Karen Williams lead a panel of five King children, out of the eleven surviving children, who have made serious accusations of wrongdoing against Toney.  These range from not letting the children see their father before he died, to providing improper medical care, and even poisoning B.B. King.

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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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