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Samsung Billionaire Accused of Stealing Millions From Late Father's Trust

The chairman of the Samsung Group, Lee Kun-hee, comes in at number 106 on Forbes’ list of the world’s top billionaires, with a reported net worth of $8.3 billion, as of March. But did he acquire some of that fortune illegally from his late father’s trust?  That’s what his brother and sister accuse him of in a recent lawsuit that is growing uglier by the day.   Samsung chairman

In February, Kun-hee’s older brother, Lee Maeng-hee, filed the suit in Seoul, South Korea. Now joined by two other family members, the lawsuit claims that when their father, Samsung Group founder Lee Byung-chull, died in 1987, he left millions of shares in Samsung Life Insurance (the world’s 14th largest insurance company) as well as preferred stock in Samsung Electronics and cash, in trust.  Specifically, he placed the asset into the name of Samsung executives for the benefit of his family.  Lee Kun-hee then wrongfully took the stock and cash and transferred it into his own name, rather than dividing it among the heirs as he was supposed to, according to the allegations.

The U.S. value of the stock is around $877 million.  If Kun-hee loses, it could potentially cause him to lose his controlling interest in the  Samsung Group, which controls dozens of companies, including Samsung Electronics.

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Amy Winehouse Didn't Have A Will After All, But Did Have Millions

Shortly after Amy Winehouse passed away from accidental alcohol poisoning at the age of 27 last July, reports surfaced that she not only had a will, but she had the foresight to update her will after her divorce from ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil.  These early reports have recently been proven wrong.   Amy_Winehouse_in_2007

Probate records were recently filed showing that Winehouse died intestate, meaning without a valid will. The estate value is listed as £4,257,580 (worth about $6.7 million U.S.) in total assets, but taxes and other debts reduce the value to £2,944,554, or $4.66 million, U.S.  Many believed her estate would be worth much more, perhaps as high as $15 to $20 million.

But, let’s not jump to conclusions so quickly.  The assets passing through probate court are those left in her individual name when she died.  So anything held jointly with someone else, or that had a beneficiary designation (like a life insurance policy), would pass outside of probate, directly to the other person.  Also, if Winehouse had a trust — which is unlikely, considering she didn’t have a will — anything held in the trust would also avoid probate.  None of these types of assets would be included in her estate value as listed in the probate documents.

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Etta James, Others Remind Of Need For Estate Planning in 2012

A few weeks into the new year, how many of your New Year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside?  Exercise more. Eat less.  Spend more quality time with family.   Etta_James

Well it’s not too late to tackle a very important resolution that up to two-thirds of adults in our country ignore — estate planning. That’s right, it’s the topic no one likes to think about, but everyone knows they should take care of … wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and more.

It doesn’t have to be intimidating! In fact, celebrity stories are a great way to break the ice to remind everyone of what they need to do.

So, with the help of some recent stories in the news, here are Trial & Heirs: New Years Estate Planning Resolutions for 2012.  (We just gave an interview discussing some of these stories, which you can watch here).

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Estate of Richard Pratt, Australian Billionaire, Defeats Mistress In Court

Richard Pratt had a colorful life, until he died at age 74 on April 28, 2009.  A former professional Australian rules football player and stage actor, he inherited his father’s small cardboard business in 1969 and grew it into one of the world’s largest privately-owned recycling and packaging companies.   Richard-pratt

Pratt peaked on Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires at number 321 in 2005.  Two years later, his fortune was valued by Forbes at $2.5 billion (in U.S. dollars).  His fortune declined from there, and Pratt eventually admitted to a massive price-fixing scheme, paying a record $33 million fine.  Pratt still managed to wind up as Australia’s fourth wealthiest person, leaving behind a $5.5 billion estate (in Australian dollars).

It was well known in Australian society that Pratt enjoyed the company of mistresses, one of whom gave birth to a daughter by Pratt in 1997.  But it’s another mistress who  caused the biggest headache for Pratt’s estate. Madison Ashton (also known as Christine McQueen) was a Penthouse Pet. She sued Pratt’s estate for millions, claiming he reneged on a “business agreement”.

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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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L'Oreal Heiress, Liliane Bettencourt, Subject to Guardianship

The second richest woman in the world, Liliane Bettencourt, has been declared mentally unfit to manage her affairs by a Judge in France a few days ago.  The decision grants control of her financial affairs to her only child, daughter Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, and grandsons Jean-Victor and Nicolas.  Bettencourt-Meyers has been fighting for years to protect her 88-year old mother, who has been victim to financial exploitation to the tune of more than one billion dollars, according to an earlier lawsuit.  Liliane Bettencourt

Bettencourt suffers from “mixed dementia” and “moderately severe” Alzheimer’s disease, according to a medical report relied on by the Judge in making her decision.  Her mental decline sparked a family court fight.  It began three years ago when Bettencourt-Meyers started a lawsuit to protect her mother from photographer Francois-Marie Banier, who she claimed had charmed the elder Bettencourt out of assets worth almost one billion euros (about 1.4 billion dollars).  She also named Banier as sole heir in a new will and as beneficiary to vast life insurance policies.

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