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New Book To Help Avoid Celebrity Estate Planning Blunders

“Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!” Explores High-Profile Cases & Offers Expert Advice



The highly publicized estate battles of several deceased celebrities have cast a bright spotlight on the importance of having the proper estate planning. Although mega-rich celebrities seem to be affected overwhelmingly by these brutal family squabbles, the new book


"Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!" is designed to help every family, regardless of income level, avoid the financial pitfalls that drained bank accounts and created huge family rifts for the dozens of superstars profiled in the book. 

“Trial & Heirs” uses real stories to help readers steer clear of the same celebrity “estate errors” as they plan for their own “heirs.” The stories cover well known legal fights over famous fortunes: including the recent battles over Michael Jackson’s estate, along with other celebrities like Ted Kennedy; Anna Nicole Smith; Brooke Astor; Heath Ledger, Ray Charles; Princess Di; Jimi Hendrix; Frank Sinatra; Martin Luther King Jr.; and Rosa Parks… as well as many others that most people aren’t even aware of.  The book gives readers a front row seat in the courtroom while the authors replay the “tabloid drama”, point out what went wrong in these riveting cases, and teach readers how to avoid similar errors.

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Interesting twist in the Brooke Astor trial

While the Michael Jackson Estate has been capturing the nation's attention recently, the Brooke Astor trial has been a bit overlooked.  For months, it made headlines in New York (and elsewhere to a lesser extent), and for good reason.  How often does a multi-multi-millionaire go on trial -- criminally -- for allegedly committing fraud against his own mother by getting her to change the will in his favor?  Not only is this rare, it's never happened before to my knowledge.Brooke Astor 2

I discussed the trial of Anthony D. Marshall in this article a few weeks ago.  There is some damaging evidence against him, which has caused many people to assume that he'd be found guilty.  For example, his mother was diagnosed with dementia/Alzheimer's disease back in 2000 before signing the 2004 amendments to the will which are in question.  Marshall even wrote a letter to her doctor about her mental decline which helped lead to the diagnosis.

But, despite this and other evidence (including the testimony of many witnesses who believed Astor wasn't competent and was confused who her son was at times), I believe it is very unlikely that Marshall and his alleged accomplice, attorney Francis X. Morrissey, Jr., will be found guilty on the will-related charges.  The larceny and similar criminal charges, unrelated to the will, are another matter.

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The Brooke Astor / Anthony D. Marshall Trial

The eyes of New York -- and much of the rest of the world -- have been closely watching the will contest trial over Brooke Astor's last wishes.  But, unlike most will contests, this one has much more at stake than who will inherit Brooke Astor's millions.  Her son and her former lawyer are criminally charged with forgery, fraud, grand larceny, possession of stolen property and falsifying business records, among other crimes.  Prosecutors allege they conspired to convince Astor to change her will to redirect some 60 million dollars from charities to her only son Marshall.

Brooke Astor was considered the Queen of New York society until she died at the age of 105 on August 13, 2007.  She left behind an estate and trust with a combined value Brooke Astor estimated at almost 200 million dollars, but only after devoting much of her life to charity.  Her motto was "Money is like manure; it's not worth a thing unless it's spread around."  The New York Times called her the First Lady of Philanthropy.

It was no surprise that her last will (number 31 in her lifetime) in 2002 left much of her vast wealth to charity.  But prosecutors are more interested in the changes to her will -- called codicils -- that began in December, 2003.  The first codicil (which is not challenged by prosecutors) was prepared by Astor's long-time estate planning attorney, Henry Christensen III.  It did not change who received what -- but did give Marshall the authority to decide which charities were to benefit.  

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