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The David Bowie Estate Shows His Genius Extended Beyond Music

Only a very few pop artists enjoyed lasting careers as diverse, colorful, and successful as David Bowie. He remained fascinating and on the cutting-edge, up until the very end, in ways that extended far beyond making music.David Bowie

Bowie, whose real name was David Robert Jones (and who didn't want to be confused with Davy Jones), passed away from liver cancer a mere two days after the release of his latest album, Blackstar, on his 69th birthday.  Knowing that his cancer was terminable, many people believe Bowie intended his last album -- featuring lyrics about mortality -- to be a farewell. In fact, the song Lazurus begins with the line, "Look up here, I'm in heaven," and ends with, "Oh, I'll be free ... Just like that bluebird ... Oh, I'll be free ... Ain't that just like me?"

It's fair to say there was no one else like David Bowie.  He was truly one-of-a-kind, from his iconic music, various personas, and his ever-adapting image, to his finances.  

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Bill Cosby Headlines The Top Ten Celebrity Legal Battles Of 2015

What better way to start the new year than by counting down Trial & Heirs Top Ten Celebrity Legal Battles of 2015, complete with lessons?  Bill Cosby

1.    Bill Cosby vs. many woman - Andrea Constad is one of dozens of women who have sued Cosby for defamation, accusing the comedian and actor of lying when he denied sexually abusing them years ago.  In Constad's civil lawsuit, Cosby's deposition was unsealed, revealing that he admitted giving women quaaludes and having intercourse with them.  He says both the drug use and sex were consensual.  Recently, a Pennsylvania district attorney brought charges against Cosby for sexual assault based on the 2004 encounter with Constad.

Lesson:  When victims of assault or other injuries wait too long, they lose the right to sue under the statute of limitations.  The specific length of time varies based on what state the events happened in and what type of claim is brought.  That's why most of the accusers are suing Cosby for defamation, rather than sexual assault.  Even criminal cases have a time limitation on when cases can be brought.  This new criminal case against Cosby was brought not long before the 12-year statute of limitations expired.  Anyone who feels they have a claim to sue, for assault or any other reason, should act promptly and not wait until it is too late.


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Mark Zuckerberg And His Charitable Plan Deserve Praise, Not Scorn

As if founding Facebook  and reaching #16 on Forbes’ ranking of the world’s billionaires wasn’t impressive enough, Mark Zuckerberg – along with his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan — is out to change the world for generations to come.  But not everyone thinks his motives are pure.   Zuckerberg and Chan

Zuckerberg and Chan announced their decision to transfer 99% of their Facebook stock to a new charitable-based venture called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.  This will do this through a new limited liability company, with the stated purpose to “to join people across the world to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation.”  The stock will be handed over throughout their lifetimes, with no more than one billion dollars in stock gifted or sold annually for the next three years, according to a recent Facebook filing with the SEC.  Zuckerberg and Chan write that the value of the stock, presently, is about $45 billion, but that will likely grow over time considering their youth (Zuckerberg is 31; Chan is 30).

Zuckerberg and Chan believe that they have a “moral responsibility to all children in the next generation.” They point to society’s obligation to help future lives. By explaining their motivations to their newborn daughter, Max, through an open letter for the public to read on Facebook, Zuckerberg and Chan seek to encourage others to follow their charitable lead. Many public figures, like Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates, and others, quickly applauded the move.

But some questioned Zuckerberg and Chan’s charitable intent or even gone so far as to accuse them of tax evasion.   They claim that the tax benefit of donating appreciated assets, like Facebook stock, in a manner that avoids capital gains taxes on the appreciation harms society rather than benefiting it. They also point to the choice to use a limited liability company rather than a charitable foundation as proof of Mark Zuckerberg’s less-than-noble intent.

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Celebrity Legacies: No Easy Ride For Dennis Hopper's Estate

When is a divorce more than just a divorce?  When famed actor Dennis Hopper battled through an ugly divorce against his fifth wife, Victoria Duffy-Hopper, the battle was more about Dennis Hopper's estate than anything else.  So perhaps no one should be surprised that the war turned uglier once Dennis died.  Easy-rider-dennis-hopper

This is installment #15 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.

The Easy Rider star had anything but an easy ride during the last few months of his life.  He passed away from cancer at age 73, smack-dab in the middle of his divorce war with Victoria, who was actually six years younger than Dennis Hopper's oldest daughter.

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Answering Questions About Whitney Houston's Millions And Bobbi Kristina's Death

After a six-month coma, the life of Whitney Houston's daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, has tragically ended.  Just how tragic her short life really was may not be known for some time.  But the details that have emerged are nothing short of heart-wrenching, if the allegations of a recently-filed lawsuit filed on behalf of Bobbi Kristina prove to be true.  Bobbi Kristina

According to that lawsuit, Whitney Houston's millions were at the heart of this tragedy.  But what role did they really play in Bobbi Kristina's death?

It was on January 31, 2015 that Bobbi Kristina was found unresponsive, unconscious, and face down in a bath tub.  That was nearly three years from the day her mother famously drowned, also in a bathtub.  Bobbi Kristina was placed into a medically-induced coma and reportedly suffered severe brain damage.

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How The Supreme Court Gay Marriage Ruling Impacts Estate Planning

As gay, lesbian, and other proponents of same-sex marriages celebrate the United States Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, millions of Americans will now be eligible for dramatically different legal rights upon the death or disability of a life partner than were previously possible.  DeBoer and Rowse

In fact, in the field of estate planning -- including planning for not only what happens when someone dies but also when someone becomes incapacitated -- the landscape in the LGBT community has just changed.  Gay and lesbian couples now have a level playing field, equal to opposite-sex couples.

The legal implications are far-ranging, from symbolic, to monetary, to life-changing.  In fact, the Supreme Court opinion in Obergefell illustrates this by sharing the stories of three sets of plaintiffs involved in that case.

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Lessons Learned From The Tom Benson Competency Battle

As owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, Tom Benson, is used to being in control. He worked his way up from humble beginnings, starting as a used-car salesman, to owner of multiple car dealerships, banks, real estate, and a television station. Of course, Benson is most well-known for owning the NFL’s Saints franchise, which he purchased in 1985. Since then, he has successfully managed the Saints through the lows of Hurricane Katrina to the highs of winning the Superbowl. In 2012, Tom Benson added the NBA’s Hornets (now named the Pelicans) to his stable of businesses. Forbes estimates his net worth to be just shy of $1.9 billion.   Tom Benson

For a man with that much success and business acumen, there can be no doubt that one of the things he would enjoy least is someone suggesting he’d lost his wits. Especially when that someone is his hand-picked protégée and granddaughter, along with his daughter and grandson. And even more so when he is brought into court through a legal proceeding about whether he is competent enough to make even basic decisions about his person or property. Add in the media scrutiny that follows for a man of his stature and it is not surprising that Tom Benson is very unhappy.

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