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August 2009

Walter Cronkite will details released

Walter_Cronkite 2Readers of this blog know that one of the big drawbacks to relying on a will (instead of a trust) is that wills must pass through probate court and are public documents.  They can be read by anyone. 

So anytime a celebrity dies without leaving all of his or her assets in a trust and/or joint tenancy, it gives the press something to write a story about.

The New York Post recently published an article about the final wishes of the late, great broadcaster Walter Cronkite who died on July 17, 2009 at age 92.  You can read it here

Cronkite left most of assets (believed to be worth millions) to his children and aides from CBS.  His August, 2005 will excluded his girlfriend, Joanna Simon (sister of singer Carly Simon).  Reportedly, he was very generous to Simon during life, but didn't want to name her in his will out of respect for his wife of nearly 65 years, who passed in 2005.

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Michael Jackson death ruled a homicide

A wrongful death lawsuit is a certainty now.  In a previous article about the Michael Jackson Estate, I wrote how a wrongful death lawsuit was likely due to the unusual circumstances surrounding his death.  Now, the Los Angeles County coroner reportedly determined that Jackson died through a homicide.  This doesn't automatically mean it was a criminal act.  Officially, it means he died at the hands of another. Michael Jackson 4

But let's put semantics aside.  Everyone expects that criminal charges will follow.  Dr. Conrad Murray, the Las Vegas cardiologist who treated Jackson, is under investigation for manslaughter because he administered the lethal dose of drugs to the King of Pop to help his sleep.  Here is the Associated Press article about the investigation and coroner's report

Rumors started before this that the Jackson family wanted to bring a wrongful death claim.  With this new report, you can bank on it happening. 

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Want to spend eternity on top of Marilyn Monroe?

Any lawyer specializing in the probate and estate planning field has heard many stories of people going to great lengths to maximize what they can leave for their children.  This one ranks right up there with the best of them.Marilyn Monroe crypt

Elsie Poncher's late husband is currently buried in a crypt directly on top of Marilyn Monroe.  He's been there for the last 23 years.  Poncher owns the tomb right next to it, and plans to move her husband into it so she can sell the one directly above Monroe.  Why?  So she can -- hopefully -- raise enough money to pay off the mortgage on her Beverly Hills home.  Poncher wants to leave the valuable property free and clear to her children.

But the mortgage is 1.6 million dollars.  So where did Poncher turn to raise so much cash?  To Ebay of course.  You can see the sale listing here.  The bidding opened at $500,000.  Right now, the highest bid is $4.5 million -- and there are still several days to go! 

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New Jersey hosts estate fight over $14 billion legacy

One of the world's 200 richest people died October 15, 2008 in New Jersey at the age of 91.  Wang Yung-ching was born in Taiwan as the poor son of a tea farmer.  His formal education ended at elementary school.  He grew up as a child laborer in such poverty that most of us can't even imagine.  Wang_yung_ching

From those humble beginnings, he amassed a fortune worth what was believed to be seven billion dollars.  Now that his estate has found its way into probate court, that figure reportedly was off by half.  That's right, his legacy is now valued at fourteen billion dollars. 

How he'd get so rich?  The United States government lent him a small sum in 1954.  Wang used it to found a plastics company, Formosa Plastics Corp., that produces plastics for countless everyday products all over the world.  He was called the "God of Management" in Taiwan.

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Are You A Caregiver For An Aging Parent or Loved One?

I was interviewed today as part of an exciting Eldercare Telesummit where 10 elder care professionals from around the country shared information to help caregivers.  My interview will air tomorrow, August 13th at 1:00pm EST. 

Here is a description of the full Telesummit.  Caregivers should check out the Telesummit because there is a great deal of useful information for anyone caring for an elderly family member.

Do one of these descriptions apply to you? Beyond Coping

1. The cost of care giving and other financial worries are keeping you awake at night.

2. The joy has gone out of your life.

3. You're confused about dementia and Alzheimer's Disease, Medicare, Medicaid, and Probate.

4. You have forgotten how to take care of yourself.

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Marlon Brando Estate wins victory on appeal

I previously covered the will contest filed against the Marlon Brando Estate by the ex-wife of Marlon's deceased son, Christopher.  At the time, it appeared that the attorneys for Deborah Brando -- on their third try -- filed a sufficient legal challenge so that the probate judge would allow the case to proceed.  The judge threw out their first two tries.Marlon Brando as GF

Deborah claimed that the Codicil (or will amendment) dated less than two weeks before Brando's death was actually forged, and that the co-executors of the Estate committed fraud to hide the forgery.

But the co-executors filed a motion asking the judge -- again -- to dismiss the challenge.  This time, the judge agreed with them.  He ruled that the claim was filed too late.  The will and codicil were accepted into probate back in August, 2004.  Deborah's lawyers had filed her claim (the first time) more than three years later.

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Katherine Jackson still battling for say in Michael's Estate

The Michael Jackson Estate was back in court this week.  The first order of business for the judge was to approve the appointment of Katherine Jackson and the guardian for the children, after she and Michael's ex-wife, Deborah Rowe, reached a deal allowing it.  Michael_jackson

Doctor Arnold Klein showed up to voice objections to the arrangement, saying he had a "unique interest" in the children's welfare.  Because he had no legal right to contest the guardianship (he's not a relative, although media reports suggested he may be the biological father), the judge refused to hear him.  There are rumblings that Dr. Klein may still lodge a fight for the children, so watch out for that.

The judge then ruled that Michael Jackson's will (which you can read here) was formally admitted to probate.  Katherine removed her petition objecting to it, allowing the two named executors John Branca and John McClain to continue serving in that role.

Think this means the fight to control the estate is done?  Think again.  The case will return to court in early October on Katherine's petition to allow her manage the estate with (or possibly instead) of them.  Michael's will named three executors, and one chose not to accept the appointment.  Katherine wants to fill that vacant role, or at least have another family member do so; but she is also asking the judge for permission to have the co-executors disqualified.

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