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Joan Rivers Teaches Lesson About Termination Of Life Support

“I ain’t afraid of death.”  Joan Rivers once told Time Magazine, “I’m in show business.  I died a million times.”   Joan Rivers

Aging.  Dying.  Death.  Concepts no one likes to think about, much less talk about.  Of the many fatal tragedies the celebrity world has suffered lately — Lauren Bacall, Robin Williams, and Casey Kasem, to name a few — perhaps none shook people to the core as much as the passing of Joan Rivers.

Even at 81 years old, her death seemed to take everyone off-guard. Except maybe Joan Rivers herself.  While on stage for the final time, she told the audience how she could die at any minute.  And a few weeks ago, she posted on her Twitter account:

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Casey Kasem’s Children and Wife Locked In Fight Over Conservatorship

For many years, kids across America listened to Casey Kasem, both as the legendary host of American Top 40 and as the voice to many cartoon characters including Shaggy of Scooby-Doo fame and Batman-sidekick Robin from Super Friends.  But now, his own kids say they don’t even get to listen to him — or even see him for that matter.  And it’s led to an ugly family feud in court.  Casey-Kasem

The 81-year old Casey Kasem suffers from advanced Parkinson’s disease and is essentially bedridden.  He cannot walk without assistance and may have diminished mental capacity.  His wife of more than 30 years, Jean, has barred Kasem’s children from his first marriage, and other friends and family members (such as his younger brother) from visiting or speaking with Kasem.

In order to pressure Jean to allow them to see Kasem, daughters Kerri Kasem and Julie Kasem, with more than a dozen friends and family members, held a protest in front of the Kasem home.  When that failed to convince Jean to change her mind, the daughters filed for conservatorship, in California.  A conservatorship court proceeding (called guardianship in some states) seeks to have an individual appointed to make decisions for someone who is not able to make proper decisions for himself, usually due to a medical condition like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or Parkinson’s disease.

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Learn From Celebrity Estate Planning Mistakes

As two lawyers who have written about celebrity estates for years and hosted the national television special Trial and Heirs: Protect Your Family Fortune! on PBS affiliates, we’ve noticed that stars often make the same big mistakes as people with very modest assets. It’s just the dollar amounts that differ.   Amy_Winehouse_in_2007

Learn from their goofs and avoid repeating them yourself. That way, you’ll protect your loved ones and be sure your inheritance wishes are carried out.

These are the top four estate-planning mistakes made by celebs — errors you’ll want to avoid:

 1. No will. Most of us naturally want to be sure our assets are distributed properly after we pass away, so it’s surprising that almost two-thirds of adults don’t even have simple wills. Whether you have millions of dollars or just a modest estate, estate planning is critical — starting with a will.

Unfortunately for the family of Amy Winehouse, the singer didn’t have a will when she unexpectedly passed away at age 27, leaving behind a $6.7 million estate.

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Oops! ... Britney Spears' Conservator Did It Again

The once-troubled pop star sure has been in the news a lot lately.  Settling lawsuits, postponing her wedding, negotiating to be a judge on The X Factor, putting one of her mansions up for sale. It makes you wonder … is Britney Spears making any decisions about her life, or does her father, as her Conservator, decide everything?  Britney-Spears

Several months ago, we wrote how her father, Jamie Spears, was using the conservatorship to insulate Britney from lawsuits, including one by a company called Brand Sense.  The company had sued Britney for breach of contract, after Team Britney cut Brand Sense out of profits from her perfume deal with Elizabeth Arden. Because Britney had been declared mentally incompetent, which justified the conservatorship, her father and their attorneys were able to keep Britney from being questioned under oath in a deposition for the lawsuit.

Recently, they’ve settled the case and agreed to give Brand Sense a confidential amount of the profits. The Daily Mail in Britain reported that the settlement  added up to $10 million for Brand Sense.

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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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Mysteries Surround the $400 Estate of Huguette Clark

Huguette Clark was a mysterious and reclusive New York multi-millionairess who passed away on May 24, 2011, a mere two weeks short of her 105th birthday.   Huguette

Clark was the daughter, and only surviving child, of William Andrews Clark, who died in 1925 and was believed to be one of the richest Americans at the time.  He built his wealth through copper mining and served as a senator of Montana.  For many years, his daughter was thought to have died long ago.  Indeed, Huguette Clark hadn’t been seen in the Fifth Avenue apartment that she lived in (and still owned when she died) in 22 years.

Where was she all that time?  Living in a hospital room, even though she was in good health when she moved there in the late 1980s.  Watched over by a private nurse, her attorney, and an accountant — who was a convicted sex offender — Clark was said to have considered her collection of dolls to be her closest companions.  She was isolated from her family members, and the Manhattan district attorney’s office has spent months in a lengthy criminal investigation over how her attorney, Wallace Bock, and accountant, Irving Kamsler, managed her vast fortune.

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Did Conservatorship Save Britney Spears Life? Does She Still Need It?

As Britney Spears nears her 30th birthday in a few months, she is in the midst of a world tour, has a successful new album, and tells Glamour Magazine that she is happy and “in a really good place right now.”  There’s even talk of her regaining at least partial custody of her children.  Quite a turnaround from the public lows she hit just three years ago!  And who does she thank for it?  Her father, James Spears.   Britney Spears 3

In fact, according to a friend of hers, Britney Spears credits her father for saving her life. How did he do it when she was so close to the edge — bald head and all — just a few short years ago?

James Spears has been Britney’s conservator since 2008.  This means he was appointed by a judge to make all of Britney’s legal decisions, financial and otherwise, since that time.

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