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"Was He A Hero?" And Other Questions Surround Chris Kyle's Estate - The American Sniper

As the movie, American Sniper, enjoys box office success, questions and controversies surround the estate of Chris Kyle.  One of his biggest critics is Jesse Ventura, the always-outspoken former professional wrestler and potential presidential candidate. Ventura recently explained in an interview with Howard Stern on SiriusXM that "Chris Kyle is not a hero. A hero must have an honor, and a liar has no honor." Ventura feels that Kyle had a talent for shooting straight, but was merely doing his job and does not deserve hero status.   Chris Kyle

Jesse Ventura has not been the only one to question the hero label placed on Chris Kyle. Bill Maher, Seth Rogan, Michael Moore and others have also made comments questioning the glorification of Chris Kyle in the movie, while Howard Stern, Sarah Palin, Rupert Murdoch and others have defended his hero status. Ventura, however, has been the most vocal about the topic -- perhaps because his view of Chris Kyle is personal.

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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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Celebrity Legacies: The Battle Over Marilyn Monroe's Iconic Legacy

Marilyn Monroe left a legacy that seems to grow brighter each year.  Monroe's image and likeness were so valuable that a multi-million dollar lawsuit over her publicity rights raged on, more than fifty years after she died, until it was finally resolved by a federal court of appeals.  Marilyn_Monroe_in_Gentlemen_Prefer_Blondes

The second wife of Marilyn Monroe's acting coach was in the center of it.  Why did she -- whom Monroe barely even knew -- have control of the image and legacy of one of Hollywood's most beloved stars ever?

This is installment #10 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.

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Celebrity Legacies: Farrah Fawcett's Face Launches A War

When someone mentions Farrah Fawcett, most people think of her looks.  But what about her brains -- her financial savvy in particular?  The actress and model who rose to fame as one of Charlie's Angels planned well to protect her troubled son, Redmond, after she passed away.  Yet all was not angelic when it came to her financial legacy.  Farrah-Fawcett-by-Andy-Warhol1-300x300

This is installment #9 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.

Farrah Fawcett was far from the stereotypical blonde model when it came to finances.  She was hired to do five seasons of Charlie's Angels, by Aaron Spelling's production company.  After the first season hit it big, Fawcett re-negotiated for more money.  Relying on the fact that she never actually signed the contract, she was able to secure an increase in per-episode salary from $5,000 to $100,000.

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Robin Williams' Wife Dishonors His Trust Through Court Battle

When Robin Williams tragically committed suicide six months ago, he left behind three children from his first two marriages (ages 23 to 31) and a widow of less than three years, Susan Schneider Williams. Unlike many celebrities, Robin Williams took the time to create thoughtful and detailed estate plan, including various trusts to benefit both Susan and his three children. The trust established for his wife, called the Susan Trust, referred to and was consistent with a prenuptial agreement the couple signed in 2011 when they were married.  Robin-and-Susan-Williams

Because Robin Williams' estate plan was carefully crafted, it initially appeared that his heirs would avoid the bitter family squabbles that affect many mixed-marriage families (in Hollywood and around the country). After all, it is his wishes that matter, and because those wishes were seemingly captured through the proper estate planning documents, there should be nothing left to fight about, right?

Not so fast. Within the past 24 hours, the news broke that the Williams family will not be so lucky. Susan, through her lawyers, started legal proceedings just a few days before Christmas. She asked a probate court in California to take jurisdiction over the Robin Williams Trust to interpret various provisions that she feels are in dispute. Robin's three children -- themselves coming from two different marriages -- filed a unified response through their attorneys and opposed Susan's court filing. The battle is on.

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