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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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Top 5 Legal Challenges Facing Michael Jackson's Estate Executors

Many people never stop to think of how hard a job it is to administer the estate or trust of someone who passes away.  Often, it's a thankless job, filled with headaches.  That's certainly been the case for the Michael Jackson Estate executors:  entertainment attorney John Branca and music executive John McClain.  Well, at least the headache part.  Michael_Jackson_Cannescropped5

Here are the top 5 legal challenges and complications that the estate executors have had to worry about in the last few months alone:

1.  The AEG Wrongful Death Trial:  It's a Thriller!

Now nearing the five-month mark since opening statements, the heirs of Michael Jackson vs. AEG trial has been filled with twists and turns,
from Lionel Richie's ex talking to the King of Pop's ghost to Jackson's childhood friendship with a mouse (as revealed by the Rolling Stone).

Where is the case now?  Heading to the jury.  While many in the media were quick to report how the Judge recently dismissed two AEG executives from the case, a more telling ruling came down at the same time.  As reported by CNN:

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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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Rosa Parks' Final Wishes, Ignored for Years, Are Finally Restored

She ranks as one of the greatest civil rights icons of all time, all starting with a seemingly simple act of refusing to move from a bus seat.  Rosa Parks passed away at age 92 in 2005, living in a modest apartment in Detroit, Michigan.  Her estate was modest too. Officially valued at $372, 624 in monetary terms, but of course priceless in terms of memories and historical significance.   Rosa Parks

Her final wishes were not so modest.  She assigned all of her belongings to a charitable institute to “educate and motivate youth and adults, particularly African American persons, for self and community betterment.”   She called this the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development.  She named her close friend, Elaine Steele, along with a retired Detroit judge, to oversee her estate.  She also named Elaine Steele as a prominent beneficiary, including a 90% recipient of royalties, with 10% passing to her nieces and nephews.

But Parks’ many nieces and nephews did not agree with her final will and trust, which were created in July, 1998.  They sued to challenge the estate plan, accusing Steele of using undue influence on Parks.  Steele denied it.  After the case was started, amid claims of mismanagement, the probate judge removed Steele and the other appointed executor and replaced them with two local attorneys.

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Rosa Parks Trust and Estate Tied Up In Lengthy Court Fight

Civil rights icon Rosa Parks passed away at the age of 92 on October 25, 2005, in Detroit, Michigan. Almost six years later, her legacy is still tied up in a lengthy court battle.  The case features allegations of abuse, cronyism and corruption by the probate judge as well as the two lawyers he appointed to oversee the estate and trust.   Rosa Parks bus

It also involves who will receive all of the considerable civil rights memorabilia owned by Rosa Parks when she was alive, and even the rights to use her name and likeness.

Parks' will and trust left the majority of her assets to the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, operated by Rosa Parks' longtime friend, Elaine Steele.  Parks and Steele had formed this Institute.  Steele says she was close to Parks for 45 years and that Parks looked at her as the "daughter she never had."

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