Category Archives: Trial & Heirs: The Book

Ronni Chasen Estate: Murdered Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen has missing will

Ronni Chasen was a top Hollywood publicist until she was brutally shot and murdered on November 16, 2010, in Beverly Hills, California.  She left behind no children and no spouse, but a detailed will and assets valued at more than six million dollars.Chasen_ronni_publicist

You can download and read Ronni Chasen’s 51-page will here, courtesy of Eonline.

The police reportedly have solid leads related to the slaying of the 64-year old, after they approached a hitman named Harold Smith.  Smith shot himself as police approached to apprehend him.

While the drama surrounding her death certainly overshadows Ronni Chasen estate, there could be some conflict arising there as well.  Chasen’s will leaves most of her wealth to one of her nieces, while the other niece was left only $10.

That niece, Jill Gatsby, told E! News:

That’s a real family secret regarding Ronni and my career as a writer which I am choosing to keep to myself at this time.

She implies that this secret relates to why she was

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Dennis Hopper estate battle moving into high gear

It’s ironic that the estate of the actor made famous through the movie Easy Rider is proving to be anything but an easy ride.  On one side sits Dennis Hopper’s fifth wife, Victoria Duffy-Hopper.  On the other sit his trustees and children, spearheaded by daughter Marin Hopper.  Marin is the oldest daughter and is five years older than her “step-mother”.  Think there’s some bad blood there?  Dennis Hopper estate

You bet there is.  Before Hopper died, he filed for divorce.  His wife claimed this move was driven by his children in an effort to cut her out of his estate plan.  According to the couple’s prenuptial agreement, if they were divorced or no longer living together, then she would not inherit 25% of his estate and life insurance worth $250,000.

At first, it was reported that Duffy-Hopper would argue that they were still living together because the judge in their divorce case permitted her to remain on the same property with him, but in separate houses.  That was clearly an uphill battle. 

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It’s baaaack … The Anna Nicole Smith Case

It has to rank as one of the craziest, lengthiest and most-watched probate litigation court cases of all time.  It officially started as Vicki Lynn Marshall (a/k/a Anna Nicole Smith) vs. E. Pierce Marshall (son and sole beneficiary of the late oil tycoon, J. Howard Marshall).  Anna-Nicole-Smith-Estate-Trial-and-Heirs

Originally, the Smith team won an $88 million against her “step-son”, Pierce, but that victory was taken away by the Court of Appeals, which ended the fight.  That is, it was over until the United States Supreme Court ruled in Smith’s favor and reinstated the case.

Then Pierce died, followed by Anna Nicole Smith.  But, just because they both passed away doesn’t mean the fighting stopped!  Their two estates have continued to battle over the billions left behind by Smith’s 90-year-old husband, 15 years after he died.

Then, this past March, the Court of Appeals again threw out the case (on a different legal ground).  Once again Smith’s estate, with the infamous Howard K. Stern at the helm, asked the Supreme Court to step Read more...

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Michigan Bar Journal Review of Trial & Heirs

The State Bar of Michigan’s montly journal has recently reviewed our book, Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!.  Here are some of the highlights:

After reading Trial & Heirs, I am convinced that I need an estate plan. It’s time to get serious about, you know, death.  Danielle and Andrew Mayoras, Michigan estate-planning attorneys who are married to each other, have written a lighthearted book. But a reader can’t miss what they’re really talking about: the dreaded D-word. Isn’t the whole point of estate planning to plan for your own inevitable death? Luckily, the Mayorases probably agree with Bugs Bunny: “Don’t take life too seriously; no one gets out alive.”

TrialAndHeirs_Book_angle

The whole point of estate planning is to control your property from the beyond. Or, if the decedent (legalese for dead person) is a bit more altruistic, to lessen the pain of death, taxes, and unnecessary disputes for survivors. And most disputes are avoidable.

In fact, “Avoid a family fight!,” a sidebar in every chapter, is one of the

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Detroit Free Press article on celebrity estate fights

This past Sunday’s Detroit Free Press featured an article, written by business columnist Susan Tompor, about “Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!” and how families can learn from celebrity estate fights.  Here’s part of it:

What can you learn about estate planning from TMZ.com, the celebrity gossip site?  TrialAndHeirs_Book_angle

Plenty. Errors involving celebrity estates can motivate everyday families to talk ahead of time about who gets Mom’s blown-glass collection — long before things get overblown.

Or at least that’s the theory being promoted by Troy attorneys Danielle B. and Andrew W. Mayoras.

“The reality is we’re a celebrity-based culture, for better or worse,” said Danielle, an estate planning attorney.

The couple, both partners at Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras in Troy, popped up last year on TV’s “Rachael Ray Show” — you can see the interview on YouTube.com — to talk about their book, “Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!”

Andrew also has a blog, www.probatelawyerblog.com, that tracks the twists and turns in celebrity estate battles, such as the struggle

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Did insurance fraud led to murder of an elderly woman?

The Stephen Hilbert family is well known in Indiana.  Hilbert founded insurance giant Conseco, which he ran until he was forced out because he owed the company hundreds of millions of dollars.  When the company sued Hilbert to collect the giant debt, he tried to hide behind a series of trusts to shelter his fortune.  Our book, Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!, includes the Hilbert story to highlight what trusts are not intended to be used for.

But now Stephen Hilbert and his family are in the news for a different reason.  Hilbert’s mother-in-law, Germaine “Suzy” Tomlinson, died under very questionable circumstances on September 28, 2008 at age 74.

Her death was ruled an accident.  Hilbert and his wife aren’t so sure.  Tomlinson was found fully dressed, face down in her bathtub, where she had drowned after a late night of drinking at a night club.   [See picture which reportedly was taken the night before she died] Tomlinson

There was broken glass, a shelf knocked over and a

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NY Times has interesting feature about Mark Twain’s will

Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Samuel L. Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.  The New York Times commemorated his passing with an interesting article about his final wishes.  The reporter dug up a copy of his handwritten will from the dusty archives of the probate court in Redding, Connecticut, which Twain called home until he died.  

The Times also published copies of other probate records from his estate, including a detailed inventory that listed the property he owned at death.  The executors reported his assets to be worth $541,136.07 (give or take a few cents) as of the date of his passing.  Not a bad sum for a man who found himself broke late in life and rebuilt his fortune in the ten years before he passed.

His largest asset was “50 shares of the capital stock of the Mark Twain Company” valued at $200,000.  He owned a great deal of other stock, a 230-acre homestead, some automobiles, three horses and a cow.  The court documents

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The crazy claims of the Michael Jackson Estate

Given MJ’s eccentricities in life, and the craziness that has surrounded Michael Jackson estate since he died, it is no surprise that Michael Jackson’s estate executors are busy denying wild claims left and right. 

TMZ has a list of the wackiest ones:

  • Jose Freddie Vallejos asked for $3.3 million to reimburse Los Angeles for the costs of the King of Pop’s memorial service.
  • A homeschooler, Claire McMillan, is seeking $2 million.
  • Michael, according to Nona Paris Lola Ankhesenamun Jackson (try saying that three times fast), was actually married to her, so Nona of course wants custody of the three kids.
  • Richard Lapointe claimed he’s owed $5 million for a memorabilia auction that was wrongly canceled.
  • And, best of all, a woman is convinced that Jackson wiretapped her telephone and had organized criminals watch her.  She wants a mere $50 million.

You can read TMZ’s coverage of these claims, which were all formally denied last week by Howard Weitzman, the estate’s attorney.  This means the claimants now have to initial

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Steve McNair’s widow facing estate tax nightmare

The Steve McNair Estate has been relatively quiet lately, after a fast start with plenty of fireworks.  You can read the Probate Lawyer Blog’s prior articles about it here.  But despite the apparent calm, there are still lessons to be learned.  Steve McNair Estate

The lawyers for McNair’s widow, Mechelle McNair, recently had to file a petition with the Tennessee probate court asking for funds to be released from a frozen trust account to pay taxes.  Ho hum, right?  Not so fast.

How much did she have to withdraw?  A cool $3.72 million — all for state and federal estate taxes that were due earlier this month.  And that’s just the estimated taxes that she has to pay now.  When the final determination of how much she, as the surviving spouse, will receive is calculated, that price tag may increase.  Her attorneys anticipate filing an amended tax return which may include even more money due to the IRS.

Why should this matter to you?  If Steve McNair had done the proper estate

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Motion Magazine book review of Trial and Heirs

Review of “Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!” by Motion Magazine, part of LegalNews.com:

Anna Nicole Smith, Ray Charles, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger …  what do they all have in common?

They were all celebrities, they’re no longer among the living, and they all can teach us a lesson.

At least according to husband and wife legacy expert attorneys Andrew W. Mayoras and Danielle B. Mayoras, authors of “Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!” The book dishes out drama using celebrity cases to highlight the importance of proper estate planning.

The Mayorases compiled and researched these high-profile celebrity cases with Danielle, who specializes in estate planning education, taking on the title of “Queen of Heirs” while Andrew used his probate litigation experience as “King of Trials.”

Satisfying readers’ voyeuristic side with the engaging stories of celebrity heir in-fighting isn’t the book’s only draw.

Featured on The Rachael Ray Show, WGN Chicago, and Forbes.com, “Trial & Heirs” can be utilized by those seeking to spark the

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