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Are Bob Marley's Heirs Destroying His Legacy?

While being widely loved for spreading reggae music throughout the world, Bob Marley stood for more than just music. His songs promoted freedom for poor and oppressed people throughout the world, social equality, and justice.  Marley even won the 1978 United Nations Medal of Peace. Bob_Marley_&_The_Wailers

Sadly, events surrounding his estate have been anything but consistent with his musical legacy.  2011 marked the 30-year anniversary of the day Marley died of cancer, at the age of 36, on May 11, 1981.  In those 30 years, his estate has seen far too many court fights, lawsuits and money-grabs to count.  And that legacy of fighting over money doesn’t seem likely to end any time soon.

Just last week, a corporation owned by his widow, Rita Marley, and his nine children, sued Richard Booker and two corporations he owned. Who is Richard Booker?  Bob Marley’s half-brother.  Among other Jamaica-based business ventures, Booker operates musical festivals and a company which gives tours of the village where Marley was born and is now buried.

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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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Forbes Video on Protecting Against Financial Exploitation

2011 marks the first year that baby boomers turn 65.  This means there will be a dramatic increase in the number of seniors in the years to come, making it extra important to raise awareness and help families protect against financial exploitation.  Forbes_home_logo

Andrew Mayoras recently discussed this topic, featuring some prevention tips on Forbes.com.  Of course, discussions of a few celebrity cases are included, such as Wesley Snipes, Anna Nicole Smith, and Farrah Fawcett.

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Why is Wesley Snipes going to jail for so long?

A federal judge has decided that it's time for actor Wesley Snipes to begin serving three years in jail, which he had been sentenced to two and a half years ago.  The star of such films as Blade, White Men Can't Jump, and U.S. Marshals was convicted of three misdemeanor sentences for willful tax evasion on May 1, 2008.  After pursuing appeals (which failed) Snipes has been free on bail, but that now has come to end. Wesley-Snipes-mug-shot

The Judge ruled:

The Defendant Snipes had a fair trial; he has had a full, fair and thorough review of his conviction and sentence by the Court of Appeals; and he has had a full, fair, and thorough review of his presents claims, during all of which he has remained at liberty.  The time has come for the judgment to be enforced.

You can read the Judge's full decision here.

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Federal guardianship abuse probe raises major concerns

CNN has an interesting article today about a soon-to-be-released federal study by the Government Accountability Office, raising some major red flags about the guardianship system:

Some court-appointed guardians for incapacitated seniors are not screened before they're Elderly woman
appointed, and many are not monitored by the courts after they've taken over the affairs of their charges, resulting in hundreds of allegations of abuse, a federal probe found.

An investigation by the Government Accountability Office found allegations of abuse by legal guardians in 45 states and the District of Columbia, according to an advance copy of the report obtained by CNN. The report is scheduled to be released Wednesday.
In 20 cases studied by the office in which criminal or civil penalties resulted, investigators found that guardians stole at least $5.4 million in assets from 158 victims, the report said. In some instances, these same guardians abused or physically neglected the people they were supposed to help and protect.

In six of the 20 cases examined, the courts failed to screen guardians before giving them control over the financial affairs and care of their wards, the federal agency found.

You can read the full article here.

The study will be used by the Senate Special Committee on Aging to help implement changes at a national level, so that state court systems can change the way they screen, train and oversee professional guardians and others in the adult guardianship system, such as judges and other legal personnel.

Presently, it is up to each state to monitor, certify and select guardians, with no federal oversight at all.  There have been widespread reports of abuse and exploitation for many years; it is refreshing to see the federal government acting to intercede.

It is important to note, however, that flaws in the system and unscrupulous public guardians who take advantage of our country's weakest citizens, while very troubling, do not mean that the entire guardianship system or all professional guardians are bad.  There is room for improvement, but guardians play a very important role helping those seniors when no one else can.  There are bad apples in any profession, but most guardians are undervalued for the service they provide.

That reality does not change the fact that, clearly, new systems are needed in most states, as this investigation demonstrates.  Hopefully changes are coming soon.

If you have a loved one involved in a troubling guardianship situation, and suspect that a guardian is not doing his or her job properly, consider speaking with an experienced guardianship attorney to see what options you have.

Posted by: Andrew W. Mayoras and Danielle B. Mayoras, co-authors of Trial and Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and co-founders of The Center for Probate Litigation and The Center for Elder Law in metro-Detroit, Michigan, which concentrate in probate litigation, estate planning, and elder law. Andrew and Danielle are husband and wife attorneys, professional speakers and consultants across the country.  Follow us on Facebook and Google+.


Huguette Clark guardianship; another Brooke Astor case?

Huguette Clark is a 104-year mysterious and reclusive New York multi-millionaire whose situation bears a striking resemblance to that of the late Brooke Astor.  Like with Astor, Clark is now the subject of a guardianship proceeding in New York brought by relatives who fear that she has been financially exploited.  Clark's fortune is estimated to be worth half a billion dollars.  Huguette Clark

Clark is the daughter, and only surviving child, of William Andrews Clark, who died in 1925 and was described as the first or second richest American at that time.  He built his wealth through copper mining and served as a senator of Montana.  Many believed his daughter had died long ago.  Indeed, she hadn't been seen in the Fifth Avenue apartment that she lived in (and still owns) in 22 years.

An Investigative Reporter for MSNBC.com recently published a lengthy two-part article about Clark and how she has resided alone, in an ordinary New York hospital room, for those 22 years, while her attorney, Wallace Bock, and accountant, Irving Kamsler, managed her finances and reportedly barred her distant relatives (including half-nieces and half-nephews) from visiting.

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Trial over L'Oreal heiress sparks French political scandal

It's been more than 18 months since the daughter of France's richest woman sued to protect her from a man described as a "dandy" who had received more than $1 billion (U.S. value) in gifts from the owner of cosmetic giant L'Oreal.  You can read The Probate Lawyer Blog's last article on the case here.Lillianebettencourt

The daughter of 87-year-old Liliane Bettencourt sued Francois-Marie Banier, a 63-year old (male) celebrity photographer who reportedly has befriended Johnny Depp, Salvador Dali and others.  Banier claims the lavish gifts of cash and art masterpieces were given to him by Bettencourt when she was mentally competent as a thank-you for his years of friendship and help as an advisor.

Bettencourt's daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, was permitted to sue Banier criminally last year.  This means that if she wins her lawsuit, Banier will not only have to return the money, but also face jail time.  The case was set for trial late last week.

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