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Richard Pryor & Marlon Brando Rumor Rekindles Bitter Feud Over Pryor's Estate

Would comedian Richard Pryor be laughing or rolling over in his grave?  When Quincy Jones sat down for a recent interview with Vulture, he casually inferred that Marlon Brando slept with both Marvin Gaye and Richard Pryor.    Richard Pryor

The comment quickly snowballed when Pryor's widow, Jennifer Lee-Pryor, took to social media to confirm the Richard Pryor tryst with Marlon Brando:

She commented that Pryor would have no shame about Quincy's comments and was open in his early comedy routines about his homosexual encounters.  Jennifer felt that Pryor would have enjoyed Quincy Jones' revelation.

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Hugh Hefner Was A Role Model ... When It Came to Estate Planning

When most people think of Hugh Hefner, they picture the famous Playboy bunny logo, young and buxom blonde women by his side, and his ever-present robe and captain's hat.  But people should also think of his smart business and planning sense.  After all, Hefner started a unique business with $8,000 in 1953 and grew it into a massive global enterprise.   Hugh-hefner-playboy

How Hefner used the resulting wealth to plan for his golden years and beyond was as unique and innovative as the way he lived his life.  It certainly isn't a road-map for everyone, but it worked out well for him.

It started at least as far back as 2010, when Hefner and his second wife, Kimberley Conrad, finalized their divorce after a 12- year separation.  At this time, records from his divorce pegged his net worth at about $43 million plus the value of his Playboy Enterprises stock and real estate.  Those records also revealed his yearly income to be nearly $3.5 million, with his expenses topping out at just over $1.3 million annually.

The big open question, of course, was:  What was the Playboy stock worth?  In 2011, Hugh Hefner partnered with a private equity group to purchase the Playboy stock and take the company private, for a total package worth $207 million.  When the dust cleared, Hefner ended up with a 37% ownership interest in the new company along with an employment contract that paid him one million dollars per year, gave him editorial control over the Playboy brand, and the right to remain in the famed Playboy mansion practically rent free for the rest of his life.

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Hawaiian Princess Kawananakoa In Court Battle Over $200 Million Trust Fund

Princess Abigail Kawananakoa, known to her friends as Kekau, is true Hawaiian royalty. Now, a bitter court battle rages over the questions of whether she is mentally capable of managing her vast fortune and whether she is the victim of physical abuse and financial exploitation.   Kawananakoa

Princess Kawananakoa, age 92, is a direct descendant to the throne of the Kingdom of Hawaii.  When the United States annexed Hawaii in 1898, it ended the reign of Queen Lili’uokalani, Kawananakoa's great-grand aunt. As the closest living relative, Kawananakoa is considered to be the heir apparent who would have assumed the throne if the monarchy had been restored.

Kawananakoa was also the beneficiary of a large fortune, thanks to her great-grandfather, James Campbell. Campbell, a 19th-century sugar cane industrialist who made his fortune in Hawaii, died in 1900 with an estate worth $3 million at the time. The Campbell Estate has grown since then, topping out over $2 billion in 2007 when the Estate was converted into corporate holdings. Kawananakoa inherited $250 million, mostly in the form of stock in the James Campbell Corporation. Today, her trust is estimated to be worth $200 million.

This trust fund is at the heart of the dispute, which pits her once-trusted attorney against her long-time domestic partner.  The attorney, James Wright, petitioned the probate court to remove Kawananakoa from controlling her trust. His petition was initially granted by the probate court judge, but now is challenged in court. Wright alleged that Kawananakoa suffered an acute stroke leaving her unable to manage her health, self-care, or financial matters. Wright based his filing on the determination of two physicians.

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Gene Wilder And His Struggle With Alzheimer's Highlight Estate Planning Lesson

The death of Gene Wilder saddened Willa Wonka fans across the globe — not to mention fans of  Blazin’ Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and many others.  When his family issued a statement saying that Alzheimer’s disease claimed his life, it served as a valuable lesson.  Alzheimer’s disease is a killer.  As Wilder’s family aptly described it, it’s an “illness-pirate.”   Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder is far from the first famous actor to fall victim to Alzheimer’s.  Jimmy Stewart, Peter Falk, Charlton Heston, and Rita Hayworth are just a few others.  And of course the disease has attacked celebrities from many different industries, including Hollywood producers like Aaron Spelling, politicians like Ronald Reagan, singers like Etta James and Glen Campbell, and sports celebrities like basketball coach Pat Summitt and ball manager Sparky Anderson.

Sadly, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.  It always leads to death.  While the official cause-of-death for most celebrities who suffered from the disease is usually listed as another affliction, such as a pneumonia or sepsis, Alzheimer’s disease is the real culprit for millions of Americans, causing the brain to decline until the body succumbs.  Gene Wilder’s bout with it is notable because his family attributed his death entirely to Alzheimer’s disease, whereas in most celebrity deaths it is listed only as a contributing factor, if at all.

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Tom Clancy Estate Battle Ends, But Valuable Lesson Remains

While the final Tom Clancy estate battle may not have been as exciting as the climactic scenes in The Hunt for Red October or Patriot Games, the struggle between author Tom Clancy’s widow and four adult children over his $86 million estate is now over.  The seven justices on the Maryland Court of Appeals (the highest court in Maryland) were asked to rule about what a key clause in the codicil to Clancy’s will actually meant.  While it was close — four votes to three — the ruling marked a decisive victory for Clancy’s widow.   Tom-clancy

Considering that Tom Clancy is one of the best-selling authors of all time, it is ironic that the fight boiled down to how to interpret a clause in his estate planning documents that was written in an unclear manner.

The dispute centered around a provision in Clancy’s second codicil (which means amendment) to his will.  The will, originally signed in 2007, divided Clancy’s assets into three trusts:  one-third for his wife, another third for his wife to use while she was alive and then onto his daughter from that marriage, and the last one-third to be split between his four adult children from a prior marriage.  You can read more details about his estate and how the dispute started in our prior article, Tom Clancy Estate In Family Fight Due To Poor Estate Planning. 

Just weeks before he died at 66 from heart failure, Clancy signed the codicil, which included this key sentence:  “No asset or proceeds of any assets shall be included in the Marital Share of the Non-Exempt Family Residuary Trust as to which a marital deduction would not be allowed if included.”

Does this language seem a bit unclear to you?  If so, you’re not alone.  The seven justices of Maryland’s highest court were closely divided about what this language meant.  The four who ruled in favor of Clancy’s widow believed that this clause meant that all estate taxes from Tom Clancy’s Estate would have to be paid by the children’s trust, not the trusts containing her money, because that was the only way to fully protect the martial deduction to federal estate tax laws.

The other three justices sided with the children.  They agreed that this clause was meant to protect the marital estate tax deduction yet felt it was not meant to alter another provision in Clancy’s will that stated that the tax bill was to be paid equally from two of the trusts, not from the children’s trust alone.  In other words, they felt that the children should only pay one-half the tax bill, not all of it, and this clause did not alter the outcome.  These justices felt that Tom Clancy wanted to protect the marital deduction but not to increase it at the expense of what his children would inherit.

Interestingly, the lawyer who drafted this codicil initially acted as executor of Tom Clancy’s estate, and he sided with the children.  This certainly suggests that the language was intended to apply as the children contended, but the law turns not on what was intended, but on what the documents actually say.

What does all this mean for Tom Clancy’s heirs?  The four children now have to pay an estate tax bill to the IRS of almost $12 million.  If they had won, the total tax bill would have been closer to $16 million, but they would have split it with one of the trusts set up for Clancy’s widow.  So they lost $8 million, and the IRS lost out on about $4 million.

That’s a lot of money in play over one awkward sentence.  Ahh rich people, problems, right?  Not so fast.

Clancy built his fortune on weaving words into compelling stories.  But with one unclear clause in his estate planning documents — a clause that the drafting lawyer felt said something different than what the Court of Appeals ruled — Clancy’s heirs were forced to battle in court for two years, with millions of dollars on the line.  And it all would have been avoided if the language was clear.

Here’s the lesson for all of us (millionaires and non-millionaires alike):  What you intend your will or trust documents to say does not matter if they are written differently than what you meant.  The wording of the documents, not what you tell your estate planning attorney, is the only thing that matters.

Battles like this do happen on a regular basis across our country.  While millions of dollars of estate taxes aren’t usually on the line, it’s very common for poorly-drafted wills and trusts to lead to long, expensive battles among heirs who read the same language in different ways.

So how do you insure that your wishes are followed and prevent a fight like this happening to your heirs?  First, work with an experienced estate planning attorney.  Attorneys who specialize in estate planning are far less likely to prepare a confusing or contradictory document that those who don’t.  This doesn’t mean that mistakes cannot happen, even by the best attorneys, but the chances are greatly reduced.  Not all lawyers are the same, just like not all doctors are.  It’s far better to work with an estate planning specialist who comes with a strong recommendation.

Second, read your documents carefully before you sign them.  Ask questions of your attorney; make sure you understand what everything means.  If you have any doubts, you can always have a trusted professional or another attorney give you a second opinion.  Taking the time to be careful and thorough is always a good idea, when it comes to estate planning.

If a fortune fight can happen to the estate of a man who made tens of millions of dollars through his words, it can happen to you too!  Take your estate planning seriously and hire the best attorney you can … and even then read the documents carefully to make sure they say what you really intend.

Danielle and Andy Mayoras are co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and attorneys with the Michigan law firm, Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras, P.C. Click here to subscribe to their e-newsletter, The Trial & Heirs Update and learn more about their book. You can reach them at Contact@TrialAndHeirs.com


Battles Coming For Muhammad Ali Estatee

Muhammad Ali was never one to shy away from battles.  From heavyweight champions in the boxing ring, to the United States Government, and to the ravaging effects of Parkinson's disease, Ali continued to fight.  Now there are growing fears that the fight will follow him into the grave, with mounting reports of trouble on the horizon for his estate and his legacy.  Muhammad-Ali

The circumstances are ripe for an estate battle.  Muhammad Ali fathered nine recognized children (including his adopted son from his most recent marriage) over the course of four different marriages.  Estate disputes between the surviving spouse and children from prior marriages are the most common source of trouble in probate courts across our country.  Add in the reality of Ali's long-standing struggles with Parkinson's disease -- which can have not only physical effects, but mental as well -- and there is a strong possibility that unhappy heirs may file challenges in court.

And, of course, there is the reality that so much money is on the line.  Initial reports are that Muhammad Ali's fortune ranged between $50 million and $80 million.  But that could just be the start.  As Entertainment Tonight reported, the value of the champ's fortune could increase dramatically now that he is gone, just as happened with Elvis Presley, Whitney Houston, and Michael Jackson.

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Prince, Tupac, And Snoop Dogg: 5 Top Musical Planning Mistakes

Prince died without a will. So did Tupac Shakur, Bob Marley, and many other legendary musicians. Snoop Dogg doesn't even want a will.  Prince 2

The question is: Why?

It seems like such a basic concept; everyone needs a will. Otherwise the laws of the state you live in determine who receives your assets and controls your legacy after you die. Without a will, you have no say in what happens, and the chances of a family fight increase dramatically.

Even though a will is relatively simple to create, studies consistently show that between 60% and two-thirds of adult Americans don't have a will. All states recognize a "holographic" will, which is one in your own hand-writing. They are perfectly valid as long as a couple basic conditions are met. This is not to say they are perfect by any means, but usually better than nothing. And most lawyers can create a basic will for a few hundred dollars or even less.

Even when an estate is modest is size, dying intestate -- without a will -- is never a good idea. So why don't more adults have wills -- including a surprising number of the extremely-wealthy?

These musical superstars highlight important lessons about why so many people fail to create a will before they die:

1. Prince:  Didn't Trust Professionals

The artist originally known, then formerly known, and then known again as Prince, reportedly developed a deep distrust of professionals, including lawyers.  He felt he had been burned earlier in his career by signing legal documents, so a stream of professionals was unable to convince Prince Rogers Nelson to sign important legal documents like a will.

The result?  His heirs and his legacy are in for trouble with what will likely be an expensive and drawn-out court fight over his vast fortune and musical legacy.

The first battle over the Prince Estate will be to determine who Prince's heirs actually are.  This morning, a man named Carlin Q. Willliams filed the first official paternity claim, based on his mother's affidavit saying she met Prince in July of 1976.  One thing led to another, and nine months later, Carlin was born.  A DNA test will come next, based on blood samples already preserved from Prince's body.

This paternity claim is just the beginning of the long road for the Prince Estate, trying to determine who should receive Prince's money.  If Prince had done a simple will, his instructions would have dictated who received what.  Paternity tests would not have been necessary.

Sadly, Prince's distrust of professionals means that a large chunk of his fortune will be spent paying legions of professionals while his heirs (both actual and potential) try to sort out the mess he left behind.

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