Phoebe Hearst Cooke Feed

Hearst Family Legal Battle teaches important lessons

CNN and Fortune Magazine recently featured a fascinating article about the legal battle between John Randolph "Bunky" Hearst, Jr., and his ex-wife.  Bunky is one of the grandsons of famed media mogul William Randolph Hearst, who left behind the powerful Hearst Corp. 

William Randolph Hearst died in 1951 with a trust and estate worth about $400 million in today's dollars.  But, more importantly, his trust established a corporate framework that enabled his board of trustees to expand the Hearst holdings into a multi-billion dollar media empire, owning hundreds of magazines, newspapers, television stations, 20% of ESPN,Bunky_barbara_hearst and more.  Here is the wikipedia page about Hearst Corp. that overviews how expansive it is. 

William Randolph Hearst's estate plan is a great example of how trusts can be used to maximize financial legacies and protect your heirs.  While most people don't have to establish complicated boards to manage extensive business holdings like Hearst, everyone can learn a lesson here. 

Livings trusts are the best way to pass along assets (be they vast or limited) because they can be individually tailored to meet the needs of any family.  Do you have modest assets and children who are good with money?  Maybe you want your trust to leave it to them all at once. 

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Hearst family resolves conservatorship court battle

In early March, I wrote this article about how one of the granddaughters of famed media mogul William Randolph Hearst -- she of the 2.1 billion dollar net worth -- was fighting family members who felt she was no longer competent to manage her affairs.  They were worried she was being exploited and taken advantage of because she kept give people large checks (in the six-figure range).Phoebe Hearst

Phoebe Hearst Cooke went through multiple attorneys trying to prove she could manage her own affairs.  Meanwhile, a court-appointed guardian handled her finances, selling some of her prized horses and cattle, which upset Cooke. 

A few days ago, the court was scheduled to hold a trial to determine if she was truly competent or not.  Interestingly, the family requested that the hearing be closed to the public to keep the details from being sorted out in front of the media.  The judge denied the request.

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Hearst Conservatorship Legal Battle

Probate lawyers in this country fight in court on a daily basis about whether people are competent or require a guardian and/or conservator to manage their medical, financial and legal affairs.  Most people don't pay such disputes much notice, but some are worthy of extra attention.

Phoebe Hearst Cooke is one of six grandchildren of legendary publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst.  In addition to tremendous wealth built through Hearst's newspaper and other media corporations, the Hearst family is perhaps most well known because of the events surrounding another Hearst granddaughter, kidnap victim Patty Hearst.  Hearst Cooke

Because of her great wealth, Cooke also enjoys a certain amount of fame.  In fact, she has been a regular member of Forbe's list of 400 Richest Americans, coming in at number 215 in 2008.  Her fortune is estimated to be around 2.1 billion dollars.

She and some of her family members, including twin brother George Hearst, Jr. (chairman of the Hearst Corp.) are now fighting in probate court in California about whether she is capable of managing her own financial affairs.  Her relatives claim she is "paranoid, irrational, uncooperative and delusional and in need of supervision and assistance" according to this recent article in the San Luis Obispo (California) Tribune.

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