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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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Celebrity Legacies: John Wayne Heirs Profit From The Duke Legacy

The popularity of the Duke has never waned. But are John Wayne's heirs going too far in profiting off of his legacy? And what does Duke University have to say about it?  John_Wayne_portrait

This is installment #8 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.

With a movie career that spanned fifty years, there is no disputing that John Wayne is one of the most successful and treasured actors of all times. He was in the top ten list of actors whose films generated the highest box office gross earnings for an astonishing 25 years in a row. The Duke also holds the record for most leading movie roles of all time - 142. To this day, he remains in the top ten list in the annual Harris poll of favorite Hollywood actors and actresses. In fact, the American Film Institute ranked Wayne as number 13 on the list of top male actors of all time.

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Wife of Donald Sterling Used Family Trust To Cut Him Out

It seems that everyone wanted Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling to sell the team, after his racist remarks about Magic Johnson and African Americans became public knowledge.  The NBA Commissioner, owners, players, Clipper fans, and Sterling’s own family did everything in their power to force him out.  Last week, the news broke that Sterling’s estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, reportedly accomplished what everyone wanted — an agreement has been reached for the Clippers to be sold for a reported $2 billion dollars to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.  Sterling

But how did Shelly manage to do this without going to court — which would undoubtedly air Sterling family dirty laundry that no one in the Sterling family or the NBA would want to see made public?

Reportedly, Shelly Sterling relied on a fairly standard provision in the Sterling family trust, which owns and controls the Sterling’s interest in the Clippers.  According to ESPN and others, Shelly and Donald were co-trustees with equal authority over their trust.  This gave them equal say in running the Clippers, including when to sell the franchise.  But, after the recent events, Shelly had her husband evaluated by doctors to determine if he was mentally competent to remain serving as one of the co-trustees.

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The Ongoing Feud of The National Enquirer Heirs

Perhaps this tale should be unsurprising considering it involves heirs of the tabloid fortune built around the concept:  ”Inquiring minds want to know!”  Two of the heirs of the tabloid founder, Generoso Pope, have engaged in dueling lawsuits for years — culminating in allegations of kidnapping, fraud, extortion, and even an arrest for criminal stalking.  All between a son and his mother.  National-enquirer

Generoso Pope was the founder of the National Enquirer.  He died in 1988, leaving behind a will and trust that called for the company to be sold. Generoso’s youngest son, Paul Pope, desperately wanted to buy and run the tabloid, but was unable to raise enough money.  Reportedly, it sold for $412.5 million, with $200 million going to Lois Pope — Generoso’s widow and Paul’s mother — and $20 million for each of the four children, including Paul.

According to Paul, about $186 million from the estate funded a marital trust created by Generoso.  As would be typical of a marital trust, Lois was to receive all of the income from the trust while she was alive, and the rest would pass onto the children when she died.

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Bill Davidson Estate In $2 Billion War With IRS

Bill Davidson, the late owner of the Detroit Pistons, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Guardian Industries — one of the country’s largest private companies — had a reputation for being aggressive.  The Pistons aggressively built two championship teams under his watch and was inducted into the NBA’s Hall of Fame in 2008.  His businesses thrived through his management.  But the IRS now says Bill Davidson was too aggressive in his tax-reducing estate planning techniques.  Bill Davidson with Isiah Thomas

The IRS recently filed a petition in US Tax Court in Washington, D.C., claiming that Bill Davidson Estate owes up to two billion dollars in taxes.  Yes, that’s two Billion — with a capital “B”.  How could any individual rack up such a large tax bill?

Davidson, like many wealthy people who worry about estate taxes, gave away assets through gifts, trusts, and other transfers to his wife and other family members.  The IRS says that he undervalued the worth of these assets.  They feel his reported net worth of around $3 billion was really much higher — perhaps in the neighborhood of the $5.5 billion figure that Forbes reported his new worth to be in 2008.

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Anna Nicole Smith's Case Makes A Comeback

It’s now, officially, the Estate Fight That Refuses To Die!  The quest for money started by Anna Nicole Smith — the former Playboy Playmate, stripper, TV reality star, and the true love of 89-year old Texas oil tycoon, J. Howard Marshall — is not over.  Despite almost 18 years of litigation, two trips to the United States Supreme Court, and untold millions of dollars spent on legal fees, the Anna Nicole Smith case lives on.   Anna Nicole Smith

Anna Nicole Smith (a/k/a Vickie Lynn Marshall) sued after her elderly husband died, following their 14-month marriage.  She was not happy being left out of his massive ($1.6 billion) estate.  She blamed one of his sons, Pierce Marshall, who inherited everything.

The probate case started in Louisiana and then moved to Texas.  Smith sued there, but was forced to file bankruptcy in California.  When she did, Pierce sued her, filing a claim in bankruptcy court.  He claimed Smith defamed him by telling the media he committed fraud in managing his father’s estate. Smith counter-sued, alleging he really did commit fraud.  She also requested millions of dollars based on what, she claimed, J. Howard would have given her if Pierce had not wrongly interfered and stopped it.

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Gore-Tex Heiress' Adoption Of Ex-Husband Fails To Score More Stock

Anyone who likes to go hiking, biking or camping probably knows what Gore-Tex is.  The breathable, waterproof fabric made W.L. Gore and Associates into a huge success. The privately-held company hit #134 in Forbes’ most recent list of America’s largest private companies, with an estimated $3 billion in annual revenue.   Gore-Tex

Founder Bill Gore passed away in 1986 and his widow, Genevieve Gore, died on January 20, 2005.  The couple, way back in 1972, finalized a trust to pass most of their stock in the company onto the children, and ultimately their grandchildren.  They smartly planned ahead, realizing how valuable their Gore-Tex invention could become and how much growth their stock could achieve.  So they funded the trust through a holding company, early on, to minimize estate taxes.

Wanting to treat their heirs equally, the Gores set up five equal shares, for their five children.  They created a supplemental trust so that each of the grandchildren could receive an equal amount of stock as well.

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