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Brooke Astor Estate Settlement: Marshall Gets His Just Desserts

News broke recently about a global settlement involving the estate of Brooke Astor.    The renowned New York society queen and philanthropist, who died at age 105, left behind an estate of nearly $200 million dollars.   Brooke Astor 2

Astor’s assets — along with the $50 million charitable trust of her late husband — have been tied up since she passed in 2007.  The fighting was so extensive that it dragged in a “who’s who” of top New York City institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, the New York Public Library, Rockefeller University, and even the United Nations, among many others.

Under Astor’s 2002 will, her only son, Anthony Marshall, stood to inherit tens of millions of dollars, with most of it slated to pass to charity after he died.  But Marshall wanted much more.  He and a lawyer,  Francis X. Morrissey, Jr., convinced the elderly Astor — when she was suffering from dementia — to sign a series of codicils to Astor’s 2002 will.  These codicils would have allowed Marshall to leave much of Astor’s fortune to whomever he wanted (specifically, his younger wife, whom Astor reportedly detested) instead of to charity.

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Rosa Parks' Final Wishes, Ignored for Years, Are Finally Restored

She ranks as one of the greatest civil rights icons of all time, all starting with a seemingly simple act of refusing to move from a bus seat.  Rosa Parks passed away at age 92 in 2005, living in a modest apartment in Detroit, Michigan.  Her estate was modest too. Officially valued at $372, 624 in monetary terms, but of course priceless in terms of memories and historical significance.   Rosa Parks

Her final wishes were not so modest.  She assigned all of her belongings to a charitable institute to “educate and motivate youth and adults, particularly African American persons, for self and community betterment.”   She called this the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development.  She named her close friend, Elaine Steele, along with a retired Detroit judge, to oversee her estate.  She also named Elaine Steele as a prominent beneficiary, including a 90% recipient of royalties, with 10% passing to her nieces and nephews.

But Parks’ many nieces and nephews did not agree with her final will and trust, which were created in July, 1998.  They sued to challenge the estate plan, accusing Steele of using undue influence on Parks.  Steele denied it.  After the case was started, amid claims of mismanagement, the probate judge removed Steele and the other appointed executor and replaced them with two local attorneys.

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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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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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Tony Curtis' Kids Say He Was the Victim of Undue Influence

The Tony Curtis Estate held an auction this weekend to unload hundreds of memorabilia, articles of clothing and other property belonging to the famed actor who died last September at age 85, after years of poor health. Julien’s Auction House in Beverly Hills, California, conducted the online auction and raised more than one million dollars.  The money went to the benefit of Tony’s widow and fifth wife, Jill Vandenberg Curtis, with a portion going to the couple’s charity.  Tony Curtis

So how much did his five children, including actress Jamie Lee Curtis, stand to receive from this?  Absolutely nothing.

Tony Curtis redid his Will and Trust in May of last year, a few months before he died from cardiac arrest.  When he did so, he cut out all of his children.  His will lists all five by name — including Jamie Lee — and states that he intentionally disinherited them.  No reason was given in his will.

His children were shocked by it and are not happy.  And this weekend’s auction only made it worse.

Daughter Allegra Curtis said in an interview that the family was upset because the widow, Jill, was the only one to benefit from the auction.  She arranged for it without telling his children. Even more upsetting, Allegra said she did not offer them anything of sentimental value to remember their father by.

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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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Rosa Parks Trust and Estate Tied Up In Lengthy Court Fight

Civil rights icon Rosa Parks passed away at the age of 92 on October 25, 2005, in Detroit, Michigan. Almost six years later, her legacy is still tied up in a lengthy court battle.  The case features allegations of abuse, cronyism and corruption by the probate judge as well as the two lawyers he appointed to oversee the estate and trust.   Rosa Parks bus

It also involves who will receive all of the considerable civil rights memorabilia owned by Rosa Parks when she was alive, and even the rights to use her name and likeness.

Parks' will and trust left the majority of her assets to the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, operated by Rosa Parks' longtime friend, Elaine Steele.  Parks and Steele had formed this Institute.  Steele says she was close to Parks for 45 years and that Parks looked at her as the "daughter she never had."

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