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

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”

Why Are the Daughters of the Late Broncos Owner Contesting His Trust?

Beth Wallace and Amie Klemmer, the two oldest daughters of the late owner of the Denver Broncos, Pat Bowlen, filed a lawsuit in a Denver area court challenging the validity of their father’s trust. Specifically, they are arguing that their father didn’t have the mental capacity to properly execute documents and was under undue influence when he signed his estate planning documents in 2009, according to Colorado Public Radio’s recent article “Pat Bowlen’s Kids Are Still Fighting Over Inheritance As 2 Daughters File Lawsuit.”

Dan Reilly, a lawyer for the Patrick Bowlen Trust, said in a statement that it is “sad and unfortunate that Beth Bowlen Wallace and Amie Bowlen Klemmer have elected to contest their father’s plan and attack his personal health,” adding the lawsuit was the “latest effort in their public campaign to circumvent Pat Bowlen’s wishes.”

Bowlen died in June at age 75 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. He put the trust in place hoping that one of his seven children would succeed him in running the Broncos, a team he purchased in 1984. In addition to the two daughters, he had with his first wife, Sally Parker, Pat Bowlen had five children (Patrick, Johnny, Brittany, Annabel, and Christianna) with his widow, Annabel.

Wallace said in 2018 that she wanted to succeed her father, but the trustees said she was “not capable or qualified.” Likewise, Brittany Bowlen said last fall that she wanted to become the next controlling owner of the Broncos team. She will become part of the team in November in a management position to begin that process.

Reilly said that Wallace and Klemmer never raised the issue of mental capacity until after 2014 “when Ms. Wallace was privately told by the trustees that she was not capable or qualified to serve as controlling owner.”

Last month, Arapahoe County Court Judge John E. Scipione dismissed a lawsuit filed by Bowlen’s brother, Bill. That suit that sought to oust team president and CEO Joe Ellis, team counsel Rich Slivka, and Denver lawyer Mary Kelley as trustees. Bill argued that they weren’t acting in good faith or in Pat’s best interests.

The judge ruled in a separate case over the trust that the court and not the NFL would decide the question of Pat’s mental capacity at the time he updated his estate planning documents 10 years ago.

The trust also has a no-contest clause. In electing to challenge the validity of the trust in court, Wallace and Klemmer are putting themselves at risk of being disinherited, if they’re found in violation of the no-contest clause, and the 2009 trust is upheld in court. Their rights as beneficiaries would bypass them and go to their children.

Reference: Colorado Public Radio (September 14, 2019) “Pat Bowlen’s Kids Are Still Fighting Over Inheritance As 2 Daughters File Lawsuit”

Did Groucho Marx Have Estate Planning and Elder Care Problems?

Julius Henry Marx, better known as Groucho, died 42 years ago on Aug. 19, 1977, at age 86. Groucho teamed with three of his four brothers—Harpo, Chico, and Zeppo—to become stars of vaudeville, Broadway, film, radio and television. (A fifth brother, Gummo, wasn’t part of the act).

PBS News Hours’ recent article, “How Groucho Marx fell prey to elder abuse” reports that the legal battles over Groucho’s money and possessions went on long after he died. The unrest of his last few years is familiar to adult children concerned with the well-being of their elderly parents.

Groucho’s relationships with his son Arthur and daughter Miriam (children from his first marriage) were also strained for various reasons. To add flame to the fire, Arthur wrote several books based on life in the Marx family, and Groucho threatened litigation over his portrayal in one of Arthur’s memoirs.

In the last few years of his life, Groucho had a companion, Erin Fleming, who was accused of elder abuse. Fleming was Groucho’s secretary-manager and was responsible for his popular comeback in the early 1970s. Fleming successfully campaigned for the Marx Brothers to receive a special Academy Award in 1974. In his acceptance speech, Groucho thanked “Erin Fleming, who makes my life worth living and who understands all my jokes.” However, some of Groucho’s friends thought that Fleming was pushing him too hard to perform, given his age and memory loss.

In 1974, Fleming was appointed his guardian and temporary conservator of an estate worth an estimated $2-$4 million. In 1975, Groucho even tried to adopt her, until a psychologist said he was not mentally competent.

Arthur Marx, Groucho’s son, sued Fleming for having a harmful and destructive influence on his father, including threatening his well-being and being abusive. He also claimed that she pushed Groucho to perform, against his best interest, for her own financial gain. In Groucho’s final days, a judge appointed the 72-year-old Nat Perrin, a close pal of Groucho’s and co-writer of the Marx Brothers’ 1933 film, “Duck Soup,” as temporary conservator of Groucho’s well-being and estate. Later, his grandson, Andrew, was named permanent conservator.

Even after he died, litigation concerning Groucho’s estate went on into the early 1980s. Groucho left most of his estate to his children but gave control of his name, image and movie rights to Fleming—an issue of dispute that led to substantial legal battles.

The court found in favor of Groucho’s children and ordered Fleming to pay $472,000, which she bilked from Groucho’s bank accounts, while she worked for him. Fleming committed suicide in 2003 at the age of 61.

In the 1970s, the term “elder abuse” had not been used, even though it existed. Today, elder abuse is a growing problem. There’s a long list of harmful activities, including physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological forms of abuse and neglect, as well as the theft or withholding of financial assets needed to live.

In identifying when elder abuse may be happening, it is important to keep in mind that some elders may be more susceptible than others due to risk factors. These include functional dependence or disability, poor physical health, cognitive impairment and dementia, low income, financial dependence, race or ethnicity, gender, and age.

Perpetrators also have their own set of risk factors, which include mental illness, substance abuse, relationship status (spouse/partners are often the most common perpetrators of emotional and physical elder abuse), and the abuser’s potential dependency on their victims for emotional support, financial help, housing and other forms of assistance.

Get some expert legal and medical advice on estate planning and the creation of a living will so that your wishes are known, and you and your estate are protected properly.

Reference: PBS News Hour (August 19, 2019) “How Groucho Marx fell prey to elder abuse” 

Why the Change in Britney Spears’ Conservatorship?

“[Montgomery] shall have the power to communicate with treating and other expert medical personnel regarding [Britney], and to have access to any and all records regarding [Britney’s] medical treatment, diagnosis and testing,” the documents state. “[Montgomery] shall have access to any and all records regarding [Britney’s] psychiatric treatment, diagnosis, and testing.”

MSN reports in its article, “Britney Spears’ Father Jamie Steps Down as Her Conservator After Alleged Altercation with Her Son,” that a Los Angeles court named Britney’s father as the permanent conservator of his daughter’s affairs in 2008. The court also designated permanent co-conservator of her estate, along with an attorney.

During the recent court hearing about Jamie’s removal as conservator, Britney’s attorneys were there on her behalf in court. Also attending were attorneys for ex-husband Kevin Federline, as well as Britney’s mother Lynne, according to The Blast.

As far as the change in conservatorship, a source close to Britney previously told PEOPLE Magazine, “Nothing will change in Britney’s life. Jamie will still get updates about Britney and Jamie will make sure that she is protected against people who want to take advantage of her. [Her mom] Lynne will also be around if Britney needs her.”

The move follows a few days after Jamie filed legal documents to “temporarily relinquish the powers of conservatorship … due to personal health reasons,” according to TMZ.

A source close to the 37-year-old pop star also commented that Jamie “decided to temporarily step down” as his daughter’s conservator after Federline filed a police report accusing him of physically abusing Britney’s 13-year-old son, Sean.

Jamie was told that it would be best to step down temporarily because of the police report. Jamie was hospitalized in late 2018 after a life-threatening colon rupture. When Jamie became ill, Britney took a break to help care for her father. She also entered a wellness facility in April to focus on her own mental health.

On August 24, Jamie reportedly “got very angry” with his grandson, according to The Blast. He allegedly broke down a door to reach Sean. “There was physical contact that made Sean scared and upset,” a source previously told PEOPLE. “Britney got upset as well and ended their visit with Jamie.”

Britney shares 10% of custody of her kids with Federline. She said that she “can’t believe that her dad would jeopardize her relationship with her boys. She’s afraid that she’ll lose custody.”

Reference: MSN (September 9, 2019) “Britney Spears’ Father Jamie Steps Down as Her Conservator After Alleged Altercation with Her Son”

What is the Latest With the Fight Over John Steinbeck’s Estate?

A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will be in Anchorage, Alaska to hear arguments in an appeal by the estate of Steinbeck’s late son Thomas over a 2017 jury verdict that took place in California. There, a federal jury awarded the author’s stepdaughter Waverly Scott Kaffaga $13 million. She claimed that Steinbeck’s son and daughter-in-law, Gail Steinbeck, hampered motion picture adaptations of his iconic works. A jury in Los Angeles was asked to decide if Thomas and Gail Steinbeck interfered with deals and should pay. Kaffaga sued her stepbrother, his widow, Gail, and their company.

AP News published a story last week, “Judges to hear appeal in lawsuit over John Steinbeck works,” reporting that Attorney Matthew Dowd, who represents the Thomas Steinbeck estate, said part of the appeal claims that the 1983 agreement was in violation of a 1976 change to copyright law that gave artists or their blood relatives the right to terminate copyright deals. The appeal also disputes the jury award, maintaining it was not supported by “substantial evidence.”

Kaffaga, who is the executor for the estate of her mother, Elaine Steinbeck, the author’s widow and third wife, had alleged that long-running litigation over the author’s estate kept her from making the most of his work, when big names like Steven Spielberg and Jennifer Lawrence wanted to bring the classics, “The Grapes of Wrath” and “East of Eden,” back to the screen. Kaffaga said the movie deals instead fell apart over the years.

Kaffaga claimed that Thomas secretly signed a $650,000 deal with DreamWorks to be an executive producer on a remake of “The Grapes of Wrath,” that originally starred Henry Fonda and won two Oscars. She also said that Gail learned of projects that Kaffaga was involved in and threatened moviemakers, arguing she and her husband possessed the legal rights to the novels. Attorney Dowd said Thomas, who died in 2016, conveyed his intention to exercise those rights, prompting Kaffaga to claim a contract breach. He said Thomas was within his right to do so under the 1976 “termination rights” clause.

In the same action, a judge ruled the couple breached a contract between Kaffaga’s late mother, Thomas Steinbeck, and his late brother, John Steinbeck IV. The brothers’ mother was the author’s second wife, Gwyndolyn Conger.

“We would like the court to rule that the 1983 Agreement violates the statute and, therefore, cannot prevent the heirs from exercising their termination rights,” Dowd said. “Relatedly, we are asking for a new trial and that the damages awards be vacated because they are too speculative and there is no legal basis for awarding punitive damages under California law.”

Kaffaga’s attorney, Susan Kohlmann, argues on appeal that several courts have already upheld the contract as legally binding. The agreement, which resolved earlier litigation, gives Elaine’s estate the “exclusive power and authority to control the exploitation and termination” of some of Steinbeck’s works, in exchange for the sons getting a greater piece of domestic royalties.

Even so, the attorney wrote that “Appellants again seek to hijack this lawsuit and use it as a mechanism to relitigate the issue of the validity of the 1983 agreement, by arguing that it is an ‘agreement to the contrary’ under the Copyright Act.”

“The District Court properly excluded such argument, evidence, and testimony that sought to undermine the holdings of multiple courts confirming the validity of the 1983 agreement,” they argued.

The lawsuit comes after decades of fighting and litigation between Thomas and Kaffaga’s mother over control of the author’s works. Thomas lost most of the court battles, including a lawsuit he and the daughter of his late brother, John Steinbeck IV, brought that made Kaffaga countersue in the case being appealed.

Reference: AP News (August 5, 2019) “Judges to hear appeal in lawsuit over John Steinbeck works”

Celebrity Estates are Like Dynamite

Dividing his estate between 11 different people was quite a task for pop star George Michael’s lawyers. Even more notably, he left out his ex-boyfriends Fadi Fawaz and Kenny Goss, which raised a lot of eyebrows according to The Irish Sun article “Most explosive wills in Hollywood history which left families feuding for decades after George Michael document revealed.” However, he’s far from the only celebrity to cut out loved ones from their estates.

Mickey Rooney—When movie star Mickey Rooney died in April 2014 at the lofty age of 93, most people assumed that this wife and eight children would be his heirs. Rooney had a long career, starring in many movies with many bold face named stars. However, he had a surprise—his estate left behind just $18,000, which went to his stepson Mark Aber rather than to his wife and other children. Several of his biological children objected to the will, which was signed just a few weeks before his death. The case was later dropped, because it was too small an amount to litigate over.

Tony Curtis—This is another movie star who left absolutely nothing to his biological children when he died in 2010. (One of his children is Jamie Lee Curtis, a successful actress and author.) Instead, the star of “Some Like It Hot” and many other movies left approximately $39 million to wife number six, Jill Vandenburg Curtis. Making matters worse, she turned around and auctioned off his personal belongings, adding another million to her pile. One of his daughters, Allegra, said they were “blindsided” by his decision. Another daughter, Kelly started a lawsuit, but later dropped it.

James Brown—This is an estate battle that is just about as legendary as the soul-singer himself. Thirteen years after he died, his last will and testament is still unsettled. Lawsuits, murder accusations and a battle for ownership of his music catalog is still going on. About a dozen lawsuits have been filed by his nine children and grandchildren, who are suing his widow by claiming that she was married to another man when she wed Brown. That estate is estimated to be worth $99 million.

Joan Crawford—Made infamous by her daughter Christina’s tell-all book, “Mommy Dearest,” Crawford left more than $2 million to two of her adopted children, when she died in 1977. However, she made it very clear in her will that her other adopted children, son Christopher and daughter Christina, were not to receive anything. The two contested the will and won about $50,000 each.

Marlon Brando—With 11 children to his name, including some that were adopted, Marlon Brando recognized all in his will but one—adopted daughter Petra. Further, he left out provisions for his teenage grandson, son of his late daughter Cheyenne Brando. With an estate estimated at $20 million, Brando passed away at age 80.

Michael Jackson—The “gloved one” cut his father out of his will before he died from a drug overdose in 2009. His father tried to contest the will but failed. Michael did not include his famous siblings either. It is thought that several of his brothers and sisters are now engaged in an estate battle, which is worth more than $1 billion. Michael did make sure that his will took good care of his mom and his three children, Prince, Paris and Blanket.

Reference: The Irish Sun (June 5, 2019) “Most explosive wills in Hollywood history which left families feuding for decades after George Michael document revealed.”

Can Liz Hurley’s Son Inherit his Grandfather’s Fortune?

Multi-millionaire Dr. Peter Bing recently tried to stop Damian Hurley, the subject of a previous paternity dispute involving son Steve Bing and Liz Hurley, from inheriting his fortune —because he was born out of wedlock.

However, Wealth Advisor’s recent article, “Liz Hurley’s son Damian wins legal battle against grandfather over inheritance,” says that a Los Angeles judge ruled recently that Damian–fathered by Dr. Bing’s son, Steve–is a rightful beneficiary of the family trust.

Dr. Bing had argued that his son, American businessman Steve Bing, has “never met” Damian and he doesn’t want the child to inherit any of his fortune. Dr. Bing also insisted that, after creating the family trust in 1980, he had stipulated that any grandchild must be “raised by my children as part of their families” to benefit from it.

The elder Bing insisted in recent court papers that the trust “would not benefit any person born out of wedlock unless that person had lived for a substantial period of time as a regular member of the household”. Dr. Bing argued that the definition of the term “grandchild” in the trust was unclear.

However, in court papers, Judge Daniel Juarez wrote: “There is no ambiguity in the trust’s use of the term ‘grandchild’”. Judge Juarez also said, “The trustee’s [Dr. Bing] interpretation of the trusts is unreasonable, and the trustee’s construction of ‘grandchild’ is simply unfounded.”

Damian was born to The Royals actress Elizabeth Hurley in 2002.

Steve Bing is worth roughly $555 million. He initially denied that he was Damian’s father, saying the couple was not in an exclusive relationship at the time. However, a paternity test proved he was the father of the child.

Reference: Wealth Advisor (July 23, 2019) “Liz Hurley’s son Damian wins legal battle against grandfather over inheritance”

What’s the Latest on Rapper Nipsey Hussle’s Estate?

Nipsey Hussle’s ex-wife, Tanisha Foster, may be set to request that she be appointed administrator, giving her access to Nipsey’s millions.

Hussle’s estate is estimated to be worth $2 million. Pursuant to California law, that money would be shared equally between his two children. They are 10-year-old Emani, whom he shared with Tanisha, and two-year-old Kross, whom he fathered with his longtime girlfriend Lauren London.

As previously reported, Samiel Asghedom, aka Blacc Sam, recently filed legal documents making a request to be designated as the administrator of his younger brother’s estate because Nipsey died without a will. A judge will make a ruling on this request early this summer.

iHeartRadio’s recent article, “Nipsey Hussle’s Ex Wants Access To His Money; Plans To Take Family To Court” notes that Tanisha is also fighting for custody of the daughter she shared with Nipsey. A judge recently ruled that Nipsey’s sister Samantha Smith would maintain custody of his 10-year-old daughter for the time being.

If Tanisha is someday awarded custody of Emani, she would have some say in the handling of the money the girl is set to receive from her father’s estate. Tanisha was recently seen storming out of the courtroom, after the judge’s ruling to give temporary custody to Samantha. In tears, she said that she was “pissed off” about this decision. There’s another court hearing to discuss the custody of Emani scheduled for July.

Nipsey’s ex-wife claimed Samantha took custody of Emani after the rapper was killed in late March and refused to return her. In court documents, Tanisha objected to Samantha’s earlier filing to be named guardian of the 10-year-old, arguing that her biological ties support the fact that she should be awarded custody.

Tanisha also claimed that Emani was visiting her father Nipsey on the day he was murdered and said that Samantha “unlawfully took the minor and as of this date, despite objector’s demand, refused to return the minor to Objector.” She also said she believes “the best interests” of Emani are not being served by Samantha’s “act of removing the minor from her mother’s custody; and by refusing contact between minor and mother.”

Samantha submitted an emergency request to be appointed as temporary guardian to Emani in April. However, that motion was denied, after a judge said there was “No urgency demonstrated for granting this relief prior to the hearing on May 14th.”

Reference: iHeartRadio (May 22, 2019) “Nipsey Hussle’s Ex Wants Access To His Money; Plans To Take Family To Court”

What Will Anderson Cooper Inherit From his Mother Gloria Vanderbilt?

The 95-year-old Gloria Vanderbilt was “a vestige of another era, reminiscent of Brooke Astor in her longevity and tangible connection to the Gilded Age of railroad and oil barons, who left their mark on New York society,” said Trust Advisor in its recent article, “Does A Long Island Landscaper (And Not Anderson Cooper) Inherit Gloria Vanderbilt’s Fortune?”

However, unlike Brooke Astor, Vanderbilt was born in the limelight. Her long life started in the center of dynastic politics that got both messy and public. She and her trust fund became commodities in her parents’ divorce.

It’s reported that she had to sell off a few houses to pay the tax bills. Anything left behind is well-hidden in some estate planning documents. With her family fortune dwindling over time, Vanderbilt’s fashion empire came and went. However, the distributions kept coming to fill the holes. The old Vanderbilt fortune may be gone.

Her children and grandchildren built the careers they wanted, investing their inheritances into passion projects, with little or no immediate payday. Some are novelists, filmmakers, and TV journalists. Gloria built a fashion empire of her own.

As the baby, Anderson was closest to his mother. He has probably accumulated the most personal wealth after years on CNN, so he doesn’t need his mom’s money. Her oldest son Stan probably doesn’t need the money either.

Stan has a successful landscaping business in Long Island. Any Vanderbilt money he inherited along the way, is probably well invested.

There’s also a third son, Stan’s brother Chris. He walked out years ago and never really came back, at least publicly. It’s assumed that he was disinherited at the time. Now, no one is sure if Gloria wrote him out of the will. She may have written him back in. There was allegedly a bit of a thaw in the last few years.

But the moral of the story is, with a well-crafted estate plan, the public may (and likely should) never know what she left her children and in what amounts.

Reference: Trust Advisor (June 17, 2019) “Does A Long Island Landscaper (And Not Anderson Cooper) Inherit Gloria Vanderbilt’s Fortune?”

Johnny Hallyday’s Estate Battle Pivots on Instagram Posts

The French rocker started using Instagram in 2012 and shared a mix of his personal and professional life with fans. Johhny’s Instagram posts have now helped two of his children defeat his widow in the first stage of an estate battle for an estate that the French news media values at tens of millions of dollars, reports The New York Times in the article “French Rock Star’s Instagram Defeats His Widow in Inheritance Battle.”

When Mr. Hallyday died in 2017, two testaments were found in a safe deposit box. One, which was written in Los Angeles, appointed his wife Laeticia as sole heir and manager of his estate. The will completely exclude his grown children from two prior relationships, David Hallyday and Laura Smet. This is not permitted under French laws of inheritance.

The two children have been fighting to prove that their father lived most of his life in France, and not in the United States.

Laeticia, who was the singer’s fourth wife, told a court outside of Paris that Johnny had settled in Los Angeles in 2007, their daughters Jade and Joy went to school in Los Angeles and he had received a green card in 2014. Court documents also reflect her telling about his fascination for Elvis Presley and American culture.

However, his son David offered something that was a bit more concrete: a chart of where the couple spent their time from 2012 to 2017, based on Johnny’s Instagram posts.

The chart revealed that Johnny spent at least 151 days in France in 2015 and 168 days the year after. He then spent eight straight months in France, mostly because of his illness, before his death in 2017.

The court accepted the children’s argument, ruling that it, and not an American court, had the competence to make decisions on Johnny’s estate.

The battle over the inheritance includes the performer’s rights on more than 1,000 songs, as well as properties in France, California and on St. Bart’s in the Caribbean. The French public has been fascinated by his life and now, by the estate battle. An estimated 15 million people watched a tribute to him in Paris after his death, when he received a hero’s tribute.

This case is an example of how social media and the law intersect. As we live more and more of our lives online, social media posts (including Instagram posts) are increasingly being used as evidence. The newness of the material is similar to what happened in the early 20th century, when the telephone was still relatively new and the admissibility of conversations on the telephone as evidence, was still being debated.

Reference: The New York Times (May 29, 2019) “French Rock Star’s Instagram Defeats His Widow in Inheritance Battle.”