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Are Bob Marley's Heirs Destroying His Legacy?

While being widely loved for spreading reggae music throughout the world, Bob Marley stood for more than just music. His songs promoted freedom for poor and oppressed people throughout the world, social equality, and justice.  Marley even won the 1978 United Nations Medal of Peace. Bob_Marley_&_The_Wailers

Sadly, events surrounding his estate have been anything but consistent with his musical legacy.  2011 marked the 30-year anniversary of the day Marley died of cancer, at the age of 36, on May 11, 1981.  In those 30 years, his estate has seen far too many court fights, lawsuits and money-grabs to count.  And that legacy of fighting over money doesn’t seem likely to end any time soon.

Just last week, a corporation owned by his widow, Rita Marley, and his nine children, sued Richard Booker and two corporations he owned. Who is Richard Booker?  Bob Marley’s half-brother.  Among other Jamaica-based business ventures, Booker operates musical festivals and a company which gives tours of the village where Marley was born and is now buried.

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Pass The Turkey With A Side Of MORE Celebrity Estate Planning Stories (Part II)

Did you know that family gatherings during the holidays are a great time to talk about celebrities, such as Whitney Houston, and how they can help your family avoid fighting when someone dies?  

This is Part 2 of Trial & Heirs’ Top 5 Celebrity-Based Estate Planning Conversation Starters for Thanksgiving 2011:

(Did you miss Part 1?  Click here.)

3. Whitney Houston   Whitney_Houston-_Just_Whitney_Cover

Whitney Houston has been locked in a vicious court battle with her step-mother over a $1 million life insurance policy from Whitney’s father, which named Whitney as the sole beneficiary.  Whitney’s step-mother, Barbara, sued Whitney and claimed the money was meant for her, not Whitney.  Whitney had lent her father money and held a private mortgage over his home, which Barbara received when Whitney’s father died in 2003.  Barbara said the life insurance was meant to repay that money and Whitney was supposed to release the mortgage and turn the rest of the life insurance money over to Barbara.

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L'Oreal Heiress, Liliane Bettencourt, Subject to Guardianship

The second richest woman in the world, Liliane Bettencourt, has been declared mentally unfit to manage her affairs by a Judge in France a few days ago.  The decision grants control of her financial affairs to her only child, daughter Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, and grandsons Jean-Victor and Nicolas.  Bettencourt-Meyers has been fighting for years to protect her 88-year old mother, who has been victim to financial exploitation to the tune of more than one billion dollars, according to an earlier lawsuit.  Liliane Bettencourt

Bettencourt suffers from “mixed dementia” and “moderately severe” Alzheimer’s disease, according to a medical report relied on by the Judge in making her decision.  Her mental decline sparked a family court fight.  It began three years ago when Bettencourt-Meyers started a lawsuit to protect her mother from photographer Francois-Marie Banier, who she claimed had charmed the elder Bettencourt out of assets worth almost one billion euros (about 1.4 billion dollars).  She also named Banier as sole heir in a new will and as beneficiary to vast life insurance policies.

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$150 Million Trust Fund Stolen From Poor Children In Panama, Lawsuit Claims

Family fights over wills, trusts and estates are far too common, not only in our country, but elsewhere.  Sometimes, those fights reach a whole new level.  This has certainly been the case with a tragic story from Panama which harmed those most in need … millions of impoverished and starving children.   Wilson Lucom

A Florida attorney, Richard Lehman, takes center stage in the dispute.   He recently sued political officials throughout Panama — including three Supreme Court judges — charging corruption, bribery, theft, and much more.  The fight involves the estate of Lehman’s former friend and client, Wilson Lucom.

When he died in June of 2006 at the age of 88, Lucom was an expatriate American living in Panama.  One year before he died, Lucom signed a will generously leaving the majority of his $50 million fortune to a trust fund to benefit the poor and needy children of Panama.  That fortune includes ocean-front real estate which has appreciated in value, so that Lucom’s estate is now valued at more than $150 million.

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Can Simon Cowell Really Have His Body Frozen After He Dies?

Simon Cowell, the former American Idol judge famous for freezing contestants in their tracks with his biting critiques, now says he wants to freeze more than that … his body.  After he dies, of course.   Simon Cowell

In this recent interview with GQ Magazine, Cowell explains why he’d like to have his body cryonically frozen:

“It’s an insurance policy.  If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.  If it does work, I’ll be happy.  If it’s possible, and I think it will be, why not have a second crack?  Does that sound crazy?  I think it’s a good idea.

I have a feeling that if I don’t do it now, I could regret this in 300 years’ time.”

Setting aside the moral, ethical, and practical considerations of freezing someone’s body in case medical research can ever find a way to restore life, what kind of legal complications can this cause for the family?

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Amy Winehouse Cut Her Ex Out Of Her Estate

Each week, we take the latest celebrity estate news and use them to share lessons.  It’s shocking how many rich and famous people make mistake and after mistake, which often leads to heirs fighting over inheritances.  But, it’s not only the rich.  Everyday across the country, people from all walks of life make the exact same mistakes time and time again.  The only difference is the dollar amounts that they’re fighting over.  Amy-winehouse

Sometimes, celebrities do get it right, and we love to share those as well.  In fact, recently, Amy Winehouse tragically passed away at the young age of 27.  Almost immediately, people worried that her fortune (which has been valued at differing amounts, from 15 to 30 million dollars), would pass to her ex-husband, Blake Fielder-Civil.

Fielder-Civil is currently in prison for burglary and related crimes and is often blamed for introducing Winehouse to hard drugs, which likely had a hand in her early demise (although the exact cause has not yet been determined).

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The Author who Played with Fire

Swedish author Stieg Larsson never lived to see his creations gain worldwide success.  He died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 50 in 2004, before his first novel, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, was published.  His three novels -- which comprise the Millennium trilogy -- have sold 50 million copies worldwide.  The Swedish movies based on the books have also been very popular, including the second installment, The Girl Who Played With Fire, which was released in the U.S. in 2010.  Stieg Larsson

In fact, U.S.A. Today recently named Larsson as its 2010 Author of the Year. 

Larsson was never married and had no children.  He also didn't have a will.  So his brother and father have been the ones to manage -- and of course profit from -- his now very-wealthy estate.

But, there is some drama to this story.  While not married, Larsson did leave behind a sambo.  What's a sambo?  It's a Swedish term for a live-in partner, like a common-law wife.  Larsson's sambo, Eva Gabrielsson, was his live-in girlfriend for 32 years.  They shared an apartment together, and many other things, including a laptop.

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