Did Little Richard Have a Smart Estate Plan?

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Little Richard’s primary career was about 35 years in length, which was plenty of time to generate significant wealth, says Wealth Advisor’s recent article entitled “Does Little Richard’s Son Inherit His $40 Million Career Or Will God Get Everything?”

Estimates are that Little Richard generated at least $40 million in the span of his career, but the question is whether much of that money is left or even if there are people around to claim it. Little Richard most likely left the majority of his estate to his son Danny.

There is also a good chance that religious charities will get some of his estate, since Richard may have decided to leave it all to one or more church organizations.

The big question is how much money and property there is to distribute. As far as assets, they may be scarce. The authorship of the hits like “Tutti Frutti” is disputed, but Richard’s birth name “Penniman” is on the original singles as composer. However, Little Richard sold the publishing rights in the mid-1950s and the intellectual property eventually ended up at Sony. He sued numerous times, trading cash settlements for royalty rights each time. As a result, Little Richard has no vast copyright library with which his heirs can generate income.

Everything else is cash. Little Richard had no foundations or charities. He was a private person and died that way.

Little Richard’s challenges were the same as the ones that face others: longevity and income. You should plan well enough to have sufficient income on which to live. You don’t want to outlive your income.

His song publishing should have been the major component to Little Richard’s retirement plan, but he sold that away very early. Without the royalties or the ability to trade them for a lump sum check, he was effectively a mere performer paid by the show. When he stopped touring, that money stopped. Likewise, because he stopped recording decades ago, that money dried up as well.

Little Richard seems to have garnered enough money settling his lawsuits to live nicely, so he didn’t need to work. However, who knows if he left $40 million. He was still able to pay his bills and didn’t have to tour from a wheelchair at county fairs. He made choices that aligned with his conscience and religious views.

Perhaps Little Richard didn’t have a lot of money in the end, but it was “enough.”

Reference: Wealth Advisor (May 11, 2020) “Does Little Richard’s Son Inherit His $40 Million Career Or Will God Get Everything?”

Did Kirk Douglas Leave His Wealth to His Son Michael?

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Kirk Douglas, who died in March at the age of 103, made sure that he gave $50 million away via the Douglas Foundation at his death.

Wealth Advisor’s recent article entitled “Kirk Douglas’ $61M fortune given mostly to charity, none went to son Michael Douglas” reports that the beneficiaries included St Lawrence University, Westwood’s Sinai Temple, Culver City’s Kirk Douglas Theatre and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Kirk’s Oscar-winning actor Michael is not listed as a beneficiary. That is okay, because he’s worth about $300 million on his own.

Michael announced the death of his father on February 5 in an Instagram post. He included several photos of his famous father and family members.

“It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103. To the world, he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to.”

Michael went on to add, “But to me and my brothers Joel and Peter he was simply Dad, to Catherine, a wonderful father-in-law, to his grandchildren and great-grandchild their loving grandfather, and to his wife Anne, a wonderful husband.”

Michael finished his Instagram message by writing, “Kirk’s life was well-lived, and he leaves a legacy in film that will endure for generations to come, and a history as a renowned philanthropist who worked to aid the public and bring peace to the planet. Let me end with the words I told him on his last birthday, and which will always remain true. Dad – I love you so much and I am so proud to be your son.”

Kirk Douglas was a three-time Oscar nominee, known for his roles in “Spartacus” and “Ace in the Hole.”

He was buried at the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary. In addition to Michael, some of the mourners were Kirk’s wife of 65 years, Anne Buydens, and his other sons Peter and Joel.

Reference: Wealth Advisor (March 3, 2020) “Kirk Douglas’ $61M fortune given mostly to charity, none went to son Michael Douglas”

Will Paris Hilton See Her Dad’s Wealth?

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Barron Hilton’s father, hotel magnate Conrad, purchased his first hotel in Texas in 1919. His timing was perfect, as the oil boom ensured rooms were fully booked and could sometimes be turned over three times in a day. He then built the Dallas Hilton in 1925 and three more Hiltons in the state in the next five years. He eventually expanded his holding to create the world’s first international hotel chain. By 1966, his son, Barron, replaced him as president of Hilton Hotels.

In 1979, at the age of 91, Conrad Hilton died of natural causes, leaving $10,000 each to his nephews, nieces, and daughter, and $500,000 to his two siblings. The remainder of the estate was bequeathed to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which he had founded in 1944.

Celebrity Net Worth’s recent article entitled “Barron Hilton Fulfilled His Promise To Not Leave Any Money To Paris Hilton,” notes that Barron contested his father’s will and ended up settling for four million shares of the company. Years later, Barron watched in horror as his granddaughter Paris tarnished the Hilton name. Barron sent a message. He made an estate plan that excluded Paris’ father and her siblings. His entire fortune would be donated to charity through the family’s foundation, because he felt Paris’ and Nicky’s sex tapes, reality shows, DUIs and other embarrassments sullied the family name.

At Christmas 2007, Barron announced to his family that he was making a major change to his will. Instead of leaving his $4.5 billion fortune to his family, he was leaving the bulk of his estate to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. He left 97% to the foundation and split the remaining 3% ($135 million) between about 24 members of his family. So rather than inheriting about $181 million each, the Hilton family members would get $5.6 million each.

It looks like Paris was entirely cut out of her dad’s will, and she didn’t get a penny from her grandfather. Barron died in 2019, and his will instructed 97% of his fortune to be given to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for disaster relief, treating children with HIV and AIDS, poverty alleviation, and helping homeless shelters.

Barron continues to reinforce his message to Paris and his family from the grave. He was the second-largest philanthropist in U.S. last year with the $2.4 billion he donated to charity. He’ll probably be up there again, as one of the most generous Americans in 2020 since he still has $2 billion to donate.

Reference: Celebrity Net Worth (March 2, 2020) “Barron Hilton Fulfilled His Promise To Not Leave Any Money To Paris Hilton”

An Estate Plan Is Necessary for the Unthinkable

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The death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others reminded us that we never know what fate has in store for us. A recent article from The Press Enterprise titled Yes, you must go there: Think about the unthinkable, plan for the worst” explains the steps.

Put an appointment in your schedule. Make an appointment with a qualified estate planning attorney. If you make the call and have an actual appointment, you have a deadline and that’s a start. The attorney may have a planning worksheet or organizer that they can send to you to guide you.

Start getting organized. If this seems overwhelming, break it out into separate parts. Begin with the easy part: a list of names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses for family members. Include any other people who you intend to include in your estate plan.

Next, list your assets and an estimated value of each. It doesn’t have to be to the penny. Include the account numbers, name of the institution, phone number, and, if you have a personal contact, a name. Include bank accounts, real estate holdings, timeshares, stocks, bonds, personal property, vehicles, RVs, any collectibles of value (attach appraisals if you have them), life insurance, and retirement accounts.

List the professionals who you rely on—your estate planning lawyer, CPA, financial advisor, etc.

If you own a firearm, include your license and make sure that both your spouse and your estate planning attorney are aware of the information. In certain states, having possession of a firearm without being the licensed owner is against the law. Speak with your estate planning attorney about the law in your state and how to prepare for a situation if the firearm needs to be safely and properly dealt with.

Name an executor or personal representative. Estate planning is not just for death. It is also for incapacity. Who will act on your behalf, if you are not able to do so? Many people name their spouse, a long-time trusted friend, or a family member. Be certain that person is willing to act on your behalf. Have a second person also named, in case something occurs, and your first choice cannot serve.

If you have minor children, your estate plan will include a guardian, who will be responsible for raising them. Talk about that with your spouse and that person to make sure they are willing to serve. You can also name a second person to be in charge of finances for the children. Your estate planning lawyer will talk with you about the role of trusts to provide for the children.

Think about your overall goals. How do you see your legacy? Do you want to leave some funds for a charity that has meaning to you and your family? Do you want your children to receive equal shares of your entire estate? Does one child require special needs planning, or are you concerned that one of your children may not be able to manage an inheritance? These are all topics to discuss with your estate planning attorney. Their experience will help clarify your goals and create a plan so that you are prepared for the unthinkable.

Estate planning touches on topics people would prefer to avoid thinking about, but avoiding planning for the unthinkable will not protect you from it.

Reference: The Press Enterprise (Feb. 2, 2020) Yes, you must go there: Think about the unthinkable, plan for the worst”

Aretha Franklin’s Niece Resign as Executor

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Sabrina Owens, the niece of soul singer Aretha Franklin, recently announced her resignation as executor in court filings, stating: “Given my aunt’s love of family and desire for privacy, this is not what she would have wanted for us, nor is it what I want … I hope that my departure will allow the business of the estate to continue, calm the rift in my family and allow me to return to my personal life.”

Rolling Stone’s recent article entitled “Aretha Franklin’s Niece Resigns as Estate Executor” reminds us that Franklin died in August of 2018, and, because she reportedly was intestate, Michigan law states that her assets are to be distributed equally among her four sons. Her sons agreed upon Owens as executor, but new family politics came up last May after three wills allegedly authored by Franklin were discovered in a notebook under some couch cushions.

“That is when relationships began to deteriorate with the heirs,” Owens wrote of the discovery of the wills. She added that she accepted the executor role on the condition that “no fractured relationships develop within the family” and that the family “did not end up in court disputes over disagreements with the Estate.” Both, Owens wrote, have happened.

Owens’ resignation, however, will not become effective immediately. Instead, she will keep serving as executor for the immediate future. It’s also unknown who will be appointed executor after she does leave.

Franklin’s youngest son, Kecalf, has attempted to gain control since one of the documents from 2014 appears to state that Franklin wanted him to take on that role (in August, a probate judge approved Kecalf’s request to have a handwriting expert analyze the documents that were found).

Although Kecalf has the support of his brother Edward, his plan is opposed by Franklin’s third son, Ted White, as well as the guardian for her eldest son, Clarence, who has special needs.

A hearing on the future of the estate is scheduled for early this spring.

The ongoing battles surrounding Franklin’s estate continue, as it gets ready for two significant posthumous projects: one is a biopic movie starring Jennifer Hudson, “Respect.” The other is an installment in the biographical anthology series, “Genius,” with Cynthia Erivo playing Franklin (both are currently in production).

In the last year, Owens, as executor, oversaw the release of the documentary, ‘Amazing Grace,” while at the same time managing the estate’s complicated finances, including $6.3 million owed to the IRS in back taxes.

Reference: Rolling Stone (Feb. 3, 2020) “Aretha Franklin’s Niece Resigns as Estate Executor”

Ozzy Osbourne and Sharon Osbourne Have an Estate Plan

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Heavy metal rock star Ozzy Osbourne and his talk show host wife, Sharon Osbourne say that they have a plan to pass the lion’s share of their estate to their children.

Ozzy rose to fame during the 1970s as the lead vocalist of the heavy metal band Black Sabbath, and Sharon became a household name more recently, thanks to her role in the MTV reality show “The Osbournes” and her job as a daytime talk show host.

Sharon explained the couple’s plan on The Talk, while reacting to news that the late Kirk Douglas bequeathed most of his $80 million fortune to charity when he died in February 2020 at age 103, reports I Heart Radio’s recent article entitled “Ozzy, Sharon Osbourne’s Children Will Determine The Fate Of Their Fortune.”

“Everybody is different,” Sharon said. “And I just know that my husband’s body of work, that he’s written, and kept us all in the lifestyle that we love, goes to my children.”

The children will also be entrusted with determining what will happen to Ozzy’s image and likeness, Sharon also said.

“I don’t want someone that never met my husband owning his name and likeness and selling T-shirts everywhere and whatever. No, it stays in the Osbourne family.”

Ozzy’s latest solo album, Ordinary Man—which is his 12th overall—already ranks as his highest-charting solo debut ever in the United Kingdom.

Between Ozzy’s equity in Black Sabbath, the solo recordings that he and Sharon have worked so hard to control and the hours of television in which the two have starred, it’s not hard to see the fruits of the couple’s labor benefitting several future generations of Osbournes.

Estate planning is important in every field and for everyone. However, it’s particularly important in the entertainment business, where will contests and questions about inheritances frequently are publicized in the press. To that end, the estates of celebrated artists like Frank Zappa, Kurt Cobain, Prince, Tom Petty, Chris Cornell, and many others have been the subject of public battles in recent years.

Even if you are not about to release your latest solo album, you still need to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to make certain that your plans for your assets and property are carried out after your death.

Reference: I Heart Radio (March 2, 2020) “Ozzy, Sharon Osbourne’s Children Will Determine The Fate Of Their Fortune”

George Michael’s Charity Continues

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One of George Michael’s sisters, 55-year-old Melanie Panayiotou, was found dead on Christmas Day, exactly three years after her brother died at his home in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire at aged 53.

London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement that emergency services were called to a home in north London, due to “reports of the sudden death of a woman, aged in her 50s.”

The Wealth Advisor’s recent article, entitled “George Michael’s sister Melanie donated her share of $128m inheritance to charity before her death on Christmas,” said that George had left most of his $128 million fortune to Melanie and his other sister, Yioda.

Sources say that the former’s share will be donated to charity. George was active in LGBT causes after coming out as gay in 1998 and was also very involved in numerous HIV/AIDS charities.

George began his philanthropy in 1984, when his fame started to grow. He joined together with other British and Irish pop stars to form ‘Band Aid’ to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. Michael also donated the proceeds from his 1991 single “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” to 10 different charities for children, AIDS and education. He was also a patron of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

In 2003, George joined other celebrities to support a campaign to help raise $26.3 million for terminally ill children run by the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity. He also famously gave $20,000 to a ‘Deal or No Deal’ contestant for IVF treatment and $33,000 to a debt-ridden woman crying in a café.

After his death, numerous charities revealed he had privately supported them for years.

“George’s family share his caring spirit,” the source told the Sun, speaking about Melanie’s donation of her inheritance. “Knowing that some good is going to come out of this double-tragedy has provided a small amount of comfort.”

Melanie, who was a hairdresser, traveled around the world with her brother George during the peak of his music career and was said to be devastated over his death.

While her cause of death has not yet been revealed, Melanie is expected to be buried at the Highgate Cemetery next to her brother. Their mother was also buried in the same location.

Reference: Wealth Advisor (Jan. 7, 2020) “George Michael’s sister Melanie donated her share of $128m inheritance to charity before her death on Christmas”

Microsoft’s Co-Founder Paul Allen’s Estate

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It’s been a little more than a year since billionaire Paul Allen’s passing, but the course he charted to give away his fortune remains a private secret, described as a complicated work in progress by the Seattle Times in the article that asks and answers the question “What’s happening to Paul Allen’s billions? A year after his death, it’s complicated.”

There’s been some recent chatter that Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, was interested in buying an NFL team, and possibly the Seattle Seahawks. This has sparked renewed curiosity about what has happened to the Allen empire.

Paul Allen was a philanthropist and interested in many different endeavors, from sports to fine art, pop culture and nonprofits, real estate investing and science. What will be kept within the family, what will be sold and what shape will the promised philanthropy take?

The answer to the question of when all of this might happen is perhaps the only clear answer: not yet, and maybe not for a while. Experts say that it can take years for such a vast empire to be unwound. His estate includes businesses, investments, properties, world-class fine art, and other valuable assets.  Giving away what might be as much as $10 billion, or more, is not something to be done quickly.

As to who is in charge, that is Jody Allen, trustee, sister, and along with her family, the sole heir. A biography on the website of Vulcan, the business that Paul and his sister Jody co-founded, says that she has the responsibility for preserving and implementing his vision for generations to come. Jody’s intentions are unknown, outside of a tight and protective inner circle.

A Vulcan spokesperson said that the company is committed to tackling the world’s toughest problems, but nothing more.

The expectations are great, based in part on the long and varied record of philanthropy from Jody and Paul Allen. He gave away $2 billion during his lifetime to business, scientific, and cultural entities.

One of the main channels for philanthropy is the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, which has given away at least $575 million. At the end of 2018, the foundation had assets worth more than $931 million and made more than $48 million in contributions.

Vulcan, the company, and the family foundation will continue to exist for many years, putting their stamp on science, the arts, environmental causes, and educational programs.

Reference: Seattle Times (November 26, 2019) “What’s happening to Paul Allen’s billions? A year after his death, it’s complicated”

What Mistake Did Hollywood Director John Singleton Make with his Estate?

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Hollywood director John Singleton didn’t do his family any favors by committing the most common mistake when it came to estate planning: procrastination.

Forbes’ recent article, “The John Singleton Estate Teaches Why No One Should Procrastinate Updating Their Will” explains that after Singleton died in April at age 51 from a stroke, he only had an outdated will from 1993. Although he was unmarried when he died, he left behind at least five children and two other minor daughters, who may be his offspring. The family has already publicly disagreed about important issues like who should serve as his conservator if he was to recover from the stroke. They even fought over the cause of his death, after he was brought to the hospital under mysterious circumstances.

Couple this acrimony with an outdated will, and Singleton’s family can expect many years of headaches, stress and legal battles about his estate. There will also be some hefty legal fees. Singleton died with only a will in place, so his estate will go through the lengthy and expensive probate court process. This has already led to more fighting and will likely mean more legal disputes.

Singleton’s mother, Sheila Ward, filed to open the probate proceeding and asked the court to admit his 1993 will. At the time he signed it, Singleton was a relatively new director and had only one child, daughter Justice. Ward reported that Singleton had assets worth $3.8 million. She listed his heirs, which include five acknowledged children, plus two minor daughters, each of whom she designated as an “Alleged Daughter.”

However, some websites have reported that Singleton’s net worth was around $35M when he died. It is believed that the filing only listed a small fraction of his wealth, because he may have had a trust that contained the remainder of his assets. It’s possible but unlikely, in light of the fact that it would be very unusual for someone to set up a trust and not at the same time create or update his will to a “pour-over” will.

Pourover wills work in concert with trusts so that any assets not transferred into a trust during someone’s lifetime are then passed into the trust through the probate court process after they die. As the name implies, the will “pours” the assets from the probate estate into the trust. Singleton’s 1993 will was already admitted into probate, so the court determined it was his last unrevoked will created during his life, and it wasn’t a pour-over will.

His mother, who was appointed the personal representative of his estate, recently filed a new document asking for the court to approve a settlement worth $515,472 based on Singleton’s claim for a greater share of royalties from Sony Pictures arising from his 2001 movie, Baby Boy. The filing says that Singleton reached a settlement in this amount before he died, but the settlement was never signed or finalized due to his untimely stroke. This money would be added to his estate.

Under his 1993 will, only his daughter Justice will inherit the millions of dollars of her dad’s estate.  However, the other kids aren’t out of luck. Singleton’s will doesn’t control their inheritance, because they were born after he signed his will. California’s probate law permits any after-born children to inherit equally with children living when the will was signed, with exceptions (like if a child was taken care of in other ways, such as a life insurance policy).

There’s still the question of how many of the children are really his. The paternity of the two minor daughters wasn’t established. That may be another probate fight.

The lesson of all of this is to work with a qualified estate planning attorney to be certain that you have an up-to-date will, as well as other important estate planning documents.

Few people expect to pass away at such a young age, like Singleton, but no one is promised tomorrow. Don’t procrastinate creating an estate plan, believing that you can take care of it “someday.”

Reference: Forbes (November 4, 2019) “The John Singleton Estate Teaches Why No One Should Procrastinate Updating Their Will”

‘Bye Bye Love’ Rocker Ric Ocasek Cuts Wife Out of Will

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In a world where many stars have their estates dragged through the probate court, it can be a relief to see a celebrity use estate planning documents to accomplish their post-death goals. One example is Ric Ocasek.

The language in the will was very clear, according to the article “Cars singer Ric Ocasek cuts supermodel wife Paulina Porizkova out of will” from Page Six. There was no provision for his wife Paulina since they were in the process of divorcing. He added that even if he died before their divorce was finalized, she was not to receive any elective share “… because she has abandoned me.” This highlights the fact that Ocasek thought through different possibilities, and the lack of ambiguity makes it easier for a court to administer the will.

It was Porizkova who found Ocasek’s body in September while bringing him coffee as he recovered from recent surgery. The couple had two sons together and had called it quits in May 2018, after being married for 28 years. They met on set during the making of the music video for the Cars’ song “Drive.”

A filing with Ocasek’s will stated that his assets included $5 million in copyrights, but only $100,000 in tangible personal property and $15,000 in cash. The document did not detail the copyright assets.

That may seem like a small estate for someone with Ocasek’s fame. However, an attorney who examined the document told The New York Post that it was likely the Cars’ frontman probably had more assets protected through trusts, yet another indication that Ocasek was very intentional about his estate plan.

Like other high-profile performers who have considerable assets and who are savvy about finances, it’s possible that he has many more millions of dollars. Thanks to proper planning, however, they will not pass through probate and will be protected from the public view and scrutiny. That is why people use trusts, especially when they are public figures.

The Cars’ singer also seems to have left two of his six sons out of the will. The children he had with Porizkova were not left out of the will. Even though this may seem harsh, it’s possible that the sons who were left out of the will were compensated through other means. There may have been trusts set up for them, or life insurance proceeds.

The document indicates that the will was signed on August 28, less than a month before his death.

Ocasek died of heart disease on September 15. At the time, he also suffered from pulmonary emphysema. Mario Testani, his friend, and business manager is named as the executor.

The advance planning done in Ocasek’s estate is a lesson in how trusts and other estate planning methods can be used to maintain an individual’s privacy, even if some of their other assets pass through a will.

Reference: Page Six (Nov. 7, 2019) “Cars singer Ric Ocasek cuts supermodel wife Paulina Porizkova out of will”