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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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James Brown Estate Battles Through Debt and Extended Fighting

The Godfather of Soul died on Christmas Day, 2006. His estate has been marred by fighting ever since. Here’s our Forbes recap of the legal troubles which have left James Brown’s estate and wishes in limbo.   James Brown

The Associated Press reported last week that the court battles devastated his estate so much that his charitable trust had dwindled in value all the way down to $14,000, with $20 million of debt, until a 2009 settlement.  This was quite a drop, because original estimates of the value of Brown’s estate came in at the $100 million mark.

The settlement — which was supposed to end all of the fighting — called for about half of Brown’s assets to pass to a charitable trust, with one-quarter going to his widow and the rest passing to all of his children.  The deal also led to the court appointment of a new attorney to administer the estate, Russell Bauknight.

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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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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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James Brown Estate Battle Still Rocking On!

The battle over James Brown’s final wishes began very shortly after the Godfather of Soul passed away on Christmas Day of 2006. And it’s still going strong.  James_Brown-1

The probate judge approved a settlement among his heirs in 2009, seemingly ending the fight then. One-half of his estate was to pass to charity through a trust, and the other one-half divided between his widow and his children. You can read about the prior settlement here.

But don’t forget about his former manager! What does she have to do with anything? It seems that Jacquelyne Hollander believes she should have been involved in the settlement too. She didn’t like being left out.

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