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Etta James, Others Remind Of Need For Estate Planning in 2012

A few weeks into the new year, how many of your New Year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside?  Exercise more. Eat less.  Spend more quality time with family.   Etta_James

Well it’s not too late to tackle a very important resolution that up to two-thirds of adults in our country ignore — estate planning. That’s right, it’s the topic no one likes to think about, but everyone knows they should take care of … wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and more.

It doesn’t have to be intimidating! In fact, celebrity stories are a great way to break the ice to remind everyone of what they need to do.

So, with the help of some recent stories in the news, here are Trial & Heirs: New Years Estate Planning Resolutions for 2012.  (We just gave an interview discussing some of these stories, which you can watch here).

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Mysteries Surround the $400 Estate of Huguette Clark

Huguette Clark was a mysterious and reclusive New York multi-millionairess who passed away on May 24, 2011, a mere two weeks short of her 105th birthday.   Huguette

Clark was the daughter, and only surviving child, of William Andrews Clark, who died in 1925 and was believed to be one of the richest Americans at the time.  He built his wealth through copper mining and served as a senator of Montana.  For many years, his daughter was thought to have died long ago.  Indeed, Huguette Clark hadn’t been seen in the Fifth Avenue apartment that she lived in (and still owned when she died) in 22 years.

Where was she all that time?  Living in a hospital room, even though she was in good health when she moved there in the late 1980s.  Watched over by a private nurse, her attorney, and an accountant — who was a convicted sex offender — Clark was said to have considered her collection of dolls to be her closest companions.  She was isolated from her family members, and the Manhattan district attorney’s office has spent months in a lengthy criminal investigation over how her attorney, Wallace Bock, and accountant, Irving Kamsler, managed her vast fortune.

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Did Conservatorship Save Britney Spears Life? Does She Still Need It?

As Britney Spears nears her 30th birthday in a few months, she is in the midst of a world tour, has a successful new album, and tells Glamour Magazine that she is happy and “in a really good place right now.”  There’s even talk of her regaining at least partial custody of her children.  Quite a turnaround from the public lows she hit just three years ago!  And who does she thank for it?  Her father, James Spears.   Britney Spears 3

In fact, according to a friend of hers, Britney Spears credits her father for saving her life. How did he do it when she was so close to the edge — bald head and all — just a few short years ago?

James Spears has been Britney’s conservator since 2008.  This means he was appointed by a judge to make all of Britney’s legal decisions, financial and otherwise, since that time.

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Is 94-Year Old Zsa Zsa Soon Going To Be A New Ma Ma?

Zsa Zsa Gabor has always been associated with glamour in Hollywood — queen of film and television over the course of a five-decade career, married nine times, and even able to parlay a famous slap of a police officer into a career revival.  In fact, she has recently been called “the first and probably biggest Hollywood celeb to become famous for being famous.” Aptly put.   Zsa_zsa_gabor_billboard

But when does pursuing fame cross the line for a 94-year old? That point may have come this week, when her husband of 25 years told the media that he had started the process of donor matching and blood work so he could turn Zsa Zsa into Ma Ma.

That’s right, the esteemed Prince Frederic von Anhalt is planning to arrange for an egg donor, surrogate mother, and artificial insemination to allow Zsa Zsa to once again enjoy the wonder of motherhood.

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Zsa Zsa Gabor's Family Fights as She Nears Death

Zsa Zsa Gabor, who appeared in dozens of movies and television shows throughout a career that spanned five decades, is approaching the end. She has a feeding tube, can hardly tell when she’s at home or in the hospital, and is barely able to communicate. According to a recent Associated Press story, she’s been admitted to the hospital nearly two dozen times since last summer, and she recently was in a coma.   Zsa-Zsa-Gabor

Sadly, her final days are surrounding by fighting, between her husband of 25 years and her only daughter. Frederic Prinz von Anhalt is her ninth husband, and he’s been her devoted caregiver and says he is constantly by her side. Gabor’s daughter, Francesca Hilton (yes, from that Hilton family), tells a different story of Von Anhalt. She says he doesn’t let her visit her mother, won’t update her about her medical condition, and that she learned of a recent hospitalization from a reporter, since Von Anhalt won’t talk to her.

Hilton says she wants to see her mother and have independent confirmation that she is being well cared for. She is struggling with having gone from speaking with her mother 10 times a day, she says, to being shut out.

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Texas multimillionaire subject to massive guardian battles

Ugo di Portanova.  Quite a name . . . and quite a story.  The Houston Chronicle had an interesting feature today about this heir to a massive oil fortune.  Di Portanova has assets valued at more than $65 million (which he largely inherited).  So you'd assume he'd wield great power with all that money, right?  Sadly, it's just the opposite. Di Portanova

Di Portanova has been declared legally incapacitated (at least in part) continuously since 1967.  After a long fight, he won the right to manage $1,000 per month, marry who he wants, and make a will.  But he lost his quest to end the guardianship, so he has almost no say in management of his own money or other important decisions in his life.

Diagnosed with schizophrenia, di Portanova, now age 74, has lost more than the right to make most of his financial and other decisions.  He has also lost many millions of dollars to exorbitant legal fees, guardian and trustee salaries, court costs, and related expenses.  The Chronicle reviewed decades worth of court records and tabbed the total bill at more than $50 million. 

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Kiplinger's article: Cut the Lawyer out of your Will?

Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine has an interesting article that's coming out in the March 2010 issue, about do-it-yourself estate planning.  It was written by Jane Bennett Clark, Senior Associate Editor:

You’ve been dragging your feet for ages on writing a will and drawing up other estate-planning documents. Now, to avoid the hassle and expense of hiring a lawyer, you’re considering using online forms to get the job done. Companies such as Nolo, LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer allow you to do just that. Not only do they provide do-it-yourself estate-planning documents, but they also offer guidance on filling them out and general information on estate-planning issues. Kiplinger Personal Finance Magazine cover

The cost for such off-the-rack estate planning? As little as $50 for a simple will to $220 or so for a package that includes a will and a living trust. That’s cheap compared with the $300 a lawyer might charge for a simple will or the $1,000 or more that a comprehensive estate plan might run you. Still, you get what you pay for, says Danielle Mayoras, an estate-planning attorney and coauthor, with Andrew Mayoras, of Trial & Heirs(Wise Circle; $20 at Amazon.com). Although the products themselves may be sound, one size doesn’t fit all, says Mayoras. “They don’t address as many what-ifs as if you had an attorney with you.”

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