Tag Archives: trust

Leona Helmsley Charity Battle Rages On

As I described in this article from February 2009, the trustees of the Leona Helmsley charitable trust asked the probate court in New York for permission to donate primarily to charities that helped people rather than dogs, despite some language in the trust that suggested she wanted her billions to benefits animal charities.  Leona_Helmsley_Trial_and_Heirs

Specifically, the trust had a Mission Statement that included, as its first purpose “the provision of the care for dogs”.  But it also gave the trustees discretion to benefit charities as they saw fit.  This is a very important decisions for many charities (not to mention the people or animals they help) because we’re talking about several billion dollars.

This August, several different animal charities, including the Humane Society and American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, launched a legal challenge to the judge’s ruling to force the trustees to support animal charities.  Reportedly, the trustees so far have donated very little to help dogs.

There was a big question whether these charities even had

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Ike Turner Will Contest Ruling Is In

The trial involving whether Rock ‘n Roll pioneer & legend, Ike Turner, left a valid will has ended.  As described in this prior article I wrote, the case pitted his six children (two of whom apparently are now questionable children of his) versus his ex-wife versus his friend and “sometime” attorney.  I’m not exactly sure why someone would be a “sometime” attorney, but that’s how he was described in this North County Times (California) article about the trial.

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The children argued Ike died without a valid will, leaving all to them under California’s intestate laws.  The ex-wife, Audrey Madison Turner, felt that Ike had left everything to her through a handwritten will written two months before he died of a drug overdose in 2007 (even though the couple was already divorced).

The “sometime” attorney believed a prior handwritten will in 2001 left him in control of Ike’s legacy.  What was that legacy?  While it appeared the estate was cash-poor, the victor would receive the rights to own and profit from

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FBI Investigated Anna Nicole Smith For Murder Of “Step-Son”

Probate disputes over whether a will or trust was valid, or instead was signed at at time when the person was mentally incompetent or subject to undue influence, are common.  They’re also very emotional and difficult for everyone involved.  The Anna Nicole Smith case — the Granddaddy of all probate disputes — illustrates this more than any other.

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I discussed the case in this article, including how the estate executor/lawyer/former boyfriend, Howard K. Stern, not only lost a request he filed in the federal Court of Appeals on behalf of Smith’s Estate, but how he was charged criminally with conspiring to provide Anna Nicole with the prescription drugs that killed her.

In Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights, which I wrote with Danielle Mayoras, we discuss the case at length (along with dozens more) so people can learn from celebrity errors, protect their heirs, and know their legal rights if they find themselves in a family fortune fight.

But a new twist on the case surfaced recently.  While this Read more...

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Estate fight Is Resolved

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s three children have been fighting with each other in court over control of his estate and financial legacy.  Here are my prior articles about the Martin Luther King, Jr. estate fight.  Two of the three children had sued Dexter King, their brother, who had the legal authority to make decisions regarding the King Estate.  The Estate was run through a corporation, which Dexter oversaw, until the 2008 lawsuit filed against him in Georgia.MLK

Recently, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Ural D. Glanville had ordered the trio to hold a shareholders meeting and try to resolve their differences.  He also ruled the case would go to trial if no settlement was reached.  Obviously, no one involved wanted the legacy of Martin Luther King fought over in a very public courtroom.

So the three children settled, reported today by the Associated Press.  They agreed to allow a neutral person to act as “temporary custodian” to manage the King legacy and corporation, and give the three children time Read more...

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New evidence coming in the Michael Jackson Estate case

The Michael Jackson probate dispute between his mother and his two executors has been active since it started this summer.  But it looks like it’s about to really get heated up.

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For starters, Katherine Jackson, Michael’s mother and a primary beneficiary (along with his children and unnamed charities), has been challenging decisions made by co-executors John Branca and John McClain on a regular basis.  She had asked for, and received, permission from the judge to allow her to challenge them based on conflict of interest and undue influence without jeopardizing her rights as a beneficiary under the “no contest clause” of Jackson’s will and trust.

A “no contest clause” is a common provision than many people use in their wills and trusts to discourage family fighting.  It usually says that anyone who files a legal challenge and loses gives up their inheritance.  Katherine Jackson wanted to be free to challenge Branca and McClain without fear of losing her inheritance, and the judge allowed her to do so.

So far, her

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Family fight over control of Michael Crichton’s trust

Celebrity estate battles just keep coming.  Here’s the UPI article about the latest in a long line of court cases involving dueling heirs of the rich and famous.  Best selling author Michael Crichton (writer of ER and Jurassic Park) left behind a messy estate and trust because he failed to update his estate planning documents to provide for his son, not yet born when he died of cancer at age 66.  I wrote about the problems this caused in a prior article.

Then his estate had to contend with the claim of his wife, Sherri Alexander, who filed paperworking seeking seven million dollars from his estate under a prenuptial agreement she signed with her famous husband in April 2005, before their marriage.

But the real fight just began.  A few days ago, Crichton’s daughter, Taylor Crichton, filed a petition in the Los Angeles Probate Court to remove Sherri as one of the three trustees of Crichton’s trust, claiming she’s breached her fiduciary duties.

Sherri’s attorneys issued a

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Katherine Jackson still batting for say in Michael Jackson’s Estate

The Michael Jackson Estate was back in court this week.  The first order of business for the judge was to approve the appointment of Katherine Jackson and the guardian for the children, after she and Michael’s ex-wife, Deborah Rowe, reached a deal allowing it.  Michael_jackson

Doctor Arnold Klein showed up to voice objections to the arrangement, saying he had a “unique interest” in the children’s welfare.  Because he had no legal right to contest the guardianship (he’s not a relative, although media reports suggested he may be the biological father), the judge refused to hear him.  There are rumblings that Dr. Klein may still lodge a fight for the children, so watch out for that.

The judge then ruled that Michael Jackson’s will (which you can read here) was formally admitted to probate.  Katherine removed her petition objecting to it, allowing the two named executors John Branca and John McClain to continue serving in that role.

Think this means the fight to control the estate is done?  Think again. 

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Wesley Snipes and the Pure Trust scam

In my Michigan probate litigation practice, I see many instances of scams and exploitation of seniors.  I’ve been working on a new case involving a “pure trust”.  Normally, I’m all in favor of trusts.  That is, legitimate trusts, such as the revocable living trusts that most reputable estate planning attorneys use.

Any trusts offered by a company rather than a lawyer should questioned right off the bat.  For example, I previously posted an article about “trust kits” and why they are dangerous.  Pure trusts, sometimes known as “common law trusts” or “constitutional trusts”, are even worse.

Since the early 1990’s, unscrupulous companies have been peddling these documents to help people place assets into what they describe as separate legal entities that are outside of the jurisdiction of the United States.  Why would that interest people?  Taxes.  You transfer your assets into these pure trusts, the sales pitch goes, and boom — no more taxes!

Sound too good to be true?  It is.  The IRS has been cracking down on pure

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