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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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Sofia Vergara Lawsuit Teaches Lesson For Couples Using IVF

It began with an anonymous court filing pitting “John Doe” against “Jane Doe.”  It didn’t take long for Jane and John to be identified publicly as Modern Family‘s Sofia Vergara and creator of the Onion Crunch, Nick Loeb.  Formerly engaged to be married, the ex-couple now is heading to court battling against each other over what could be a drawn-out debate involving the fundamental question:  When does life begin?   Sofia Vergara Chris Loeb

Loeb’s attorney vows that he is committed to the battle, which may become “the first test case for Pro-Parenthood.”  Vergara seeks to defend her honor and wants nothing more to do with her ex.  Her lawyer said Loeb’s claims are “uncredible and hold no merit.”

What's at stake?  Control over two female frozen embryos, held in a Beverly Hills fertility center.  When Sofia Vergara and Nick Loeb were engaged, they decided to use in vitro fertilization and a gestational surrogate to have a baby.  Their first efforts failed when two prior embryos did not successfully implant in the woman they chose to carry the baby to term.  Vergara and Loeb tried a second time, again leading to the creation of two viable embryos.  Before the new embryos could be implanted in a different surrogate, the couple called off their engagement.

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Should Caregiver of Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, Inherit His Fortune?

Widely beloved throughout the world of baseball, especially in Chicago, Ernie Banks -- a/k/a Mr. Cub -- rose from humble beginnings.  He began his career earning seven dollars a day in the Negro Leagues, before crossing the color barrier and becoming the Chicago Cubs’ most popular player ever.  Ernie Banks

After his playing career, Banks has been widely respected as a positive role model in baseball and beyond.  He continued to break new ground, becoming the first African-American Ford Motor Company dealer ever and being actively involved in charity work throughout his life after baseball.  In 2013, President Obama awarded Banks the National Congressional Medal of Honor.

Ernie Banks died on January 23rd at age 83 from a heart condition.  Interestingly, his death certificate listed dementia as a "significant condition contributing" to his death.  Why is this important?

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Celebrity Legacies: The Anna Nicole Smith Estate Battle

So how long exactly does it take to resolve the dispute over the estate of an 89-year old Texas oil tycoon who married a 26-year old stripper and Playboy Playmate?  Shouldn't the case end when both the stripper (Anna Nicole Smith) and her "step-son" (Pierce Marshall, who was 27 years older than she was) die?  Anna_Nicole_Smith

And is this really important enough to be heard by the United States Supreme Court, not once, but twice?

This is installment #3 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.

While we monitor, write about, and provide commentary for media outlets around the country about many complicated celebrity estates, this one takes the prize.  We call it "The Grand-Daddy Of All Estate Battles."  We've written several articles about this case so far, which you can read here.

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Mickey Rooney's Estate Finds Peace, But Will It Last?

A mere five days after the Hollywood acting legend passed away in his sleep at the age of 93, the family of Mickey Rooney was set to appear in a Los Angeles courtroom to fight over where he should be buried. Just hours before the court hearing, the estate reached a settlement — hopefully putting an end to the troubling feud that surrounded Rooney’s family the last few years.  Mickey_rooney_2000-300x267

On one hand, Rooney’s family fight should not be viewed as surprising. What else would be expected when a Hollywood icon dies with a new will disinheriting all nine of his children (from eight different marriages), his wife, and all of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren? But a closer look shows how this family feud was far from the typical inheritance squabble we often see when famous people die.

Mickey Rooney‘s estate is reported to be worth a mere $18,000 at this point. While his successful acting career spanned more than 80 years, most of Rooney’s starring roles occurred during the movie industry’s “old studio system.” So Rooney’s estate is not in line to receive much in the way of royalties, despite the fact he was the highest-paid actor of the late 1930′s to early 40′s.

 

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Release Of Anthony Marshall, Brooke Astor's Son, From Prison Is An Insult

The New York Department of Corrections decided recently to release Anthony Marshall from prison, only eight weeks into his one-to-three year prison sentence for committing fraud and a host of other crimes in taking advantage of his elderly mother, Brooke Astor.  Given how few crimes of financial exploitation of the elderly are actually prosecuted, it's a sad message to send.  Anthony-Marshall-2013

The New York District Attorney's office spent six months in trial and many millions to prosecute Anthony Marshall and his accomplice, attorney Francis X. Morrissey Jr., in 2009.  Facing enormous odds trying to prove an 85-year old multi-millionaire illegally exploited his mother, they secured a conviction for 14 counts out of 16, for financial exploitation, fraud, and a host of related crimes.

Immediately, Marshall began raising legal challenges and appeals pleading poor health and his advanced age as a reason to avoid the consequences of his crime.  Judge after judge rejected each one, finally landing the criminal in jail on June 21st.

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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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