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Estate Planning Blog

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Who Inherited Chadwick Boseman’s Estate?

Nearly 70% of Americans still don’t have a will or living trust in place, despite all the events of the past few years, according to a survey from Caring.com published in 2022. Even more revealing, 16% don’t think they need a will by age 45. They’re making a grave mistake, for more than a few reasons.

A recent article from NBC News titled “What happened to Chadwick Boseman’s $2.3 million estate is an exception, not the rule” looks at a few different reasons why wills, trusts and estate planning in general are so important for families.

Chadwick Boseman, known for his roles in Marvel’s “Black Panther,” “42,” and other award-winning movies, knew he was very sick for many years, yet he did not have a will created. Boseman was only 43 when he died in 2020. A Gallup poll from 2021 indicated only 36% of Americans between ages 30—49 had a will detailing how they want their assets distributed after death.

When a loved one dies without a will, many families become embroiled in battles lasting years, fracturing families and breaking more than a few hearts along the way. The fights aren’t always about big money either. Even small estates can engender family feuds.

Boseman’s family is the rare exception. His widow Taylor Simone Ledward asked the court to divide his estate evenly between herself and his parents. Compared to other entertainers—Prince is a powerful example of how badly things can go—this is a relatively happy ending.

However, the Boseman case is not without significant lessons.

First, Boseman kept his private life very private. He dated Taylor Simone Ledward for years, with little of the fanfare that accompanies most Hollywood romances. He was also ill with colon cancer for several years, and few people outside of his family knew he was sick.

However, because of the lack of planning, we know a lot more about Boseman than we would if he had an estate plan. His documents became part of the public record. We know his widow had to petition the court to be named as his administrator with limited authority over his estate and filed a probate case in Los Angeles.

We also know Boseman’s estate had to pay higher court fees because there was no will, reducing his estate from $3.8 million to $2.5 million. It’s always more expensive not to have a will than to have a will.

Dying without a will means the laws of the state determine how the estate’s assets are distributed. If parents die without a will, the court will determine who will raise the couple’s children by naming a guardian. Without a will, heirs will also be forced to devote time, money and emotional energy to settle the estate.

Taking the time to have an estate plan prepared with an experienced estate planning attorney is an act of love for those you care about. It preserves your privacy, minimizes costs and allows loved ones to focus on what truly matters.

Reference: NBC News (July 1, 2022) “What happened to Chadwick Boseman’s $2.3 million estate is an exception, not the rule”

 

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What Did the Rolling Stones’ Drummer Say in His Will?

Charlie Watts, the drummer who found fame with The Rolling Stones, died on August 24, 2021, at the age of 80 after having a heart surgery.

Metro’s recent article entitled “Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts leaves £30,000,000 fortune to his family following his death in August” reports that Watts’s will left the majority of his fortune to his family. His estate, was estimated at roughly $38 million, excluding the value of his estate in France.

Most of the money left by the star will go to his 83-year-old widow, Shirley. His treasured car collection will be given to others, according to the wishes in his will.

These instructions in the 14-page will were not made public, unlike those for his money.

Watts’s will had been drafted in 2017. His estate’s executors were told to use the income from his fortune to support “beneficiaries.”

The will directs the executors that when his wife dies, the inheritance will be passed down to his daughter Seraphina, his sister Linda Rootes, sisters-in-law Jackie Fenwick and Jill Minder and brother-in-law Stephen Shepherd.

Watts had married Shirley in 1964, before the Rolling Stones found international fame and fortune.

The drummer was seen as the shy, quiet and sensible member of the band.

He had battled throat cancer in 2004, after quitting smoking in the late 1980s. He was eventually given the all-clear after intensive radiotherapy.

Shortly before his death, Watts was forced to pull out of the Stones’s No Filter tour in America because of the operation on his heart.

Announcing the news of his death, a spokesperson said at the time: “It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of our beloved Charlie Watts. He passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family.”

Reference: Metro (May 18, 2022) “Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts leaves £30,000,000 fortune to his family following his death in August”

 

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How Did Rock Star’s Estate Planning Help Future Musicians?

The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, a nonprofit supporting music education in at-risk public schools, announced it had received a “transformative donation” from the late Eddie Van Halen.

MSN’s recent article on this is entitled “Eddie Van Halen left a huge donation in his will to support music education for kids”

Before his death in October 2020, Van Halen was involved with the foundation and supported the nonprofit over the years.

He made numerous appearances at the organization’s events and took part in various opportunities helping teach music to kids. As part of his will, Van Halen made a considerable donation that will have a profound effect on the foundation for many years.

The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation was inspired by the movie titled Mr. Holland’s Opus. It is the story of the profound effect a dedicated music teacher had on generations of students. Michael Kamen, who wrote the score for the film, started the foundation in 1996 as his commitment to the future of music education.

The foundation says that Van Halen’s donation “will enable MHOF to fulfill requests from a greater number of schools, add employees to its staff, improve the foundation’s technology and more.”

“Eddie’s support and friendship over the years meant the world to us and to his fans. His passion for music and our work created a strong bond, which is evident in his extraordinary bequest,” Felice Mancini, President and CEO of MHOF said in a statement.

“To know how much our foundation meant to Eddie is intensely humbling and gratifying to all of us – and we know that Eddie’s family is confident that his powerful legacy and values live on through our efforts.”

Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang Van Halen, will continue the family’s involvement and support of the organization. He has donated proceeds from his single “Distance” to the foundation in support of school music programs across the country and as a dedication to his father.

“Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation and the work they do for music education was always something that was important to my father,” Van Halen said in a statement. “I am incredibly proud to help facilitate this donation as he wished. Mr. Holland’s Opus are champions for our musicians of the future, and it is my privilege to continue supporting that mission and carrying on my pop’s legacy.”

Reference: MSN (April 21, 2022) “Eddie Van Halen left a huge donation in his will to support music education for kids”

 

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What Did Beatles’ Pal Do with Her Estate?

The 1960’s singer Cilla Black passed away at her Spanish villa in 2015, after a stroke following a fall, aged just 72.

The Express’ recent article entitled “Cilla Black’s vast riches and incredible generosity explored as she would have turned 79” reports that this past week saw many in Britain celebrate what would have been her 79th birthday on May 27, as well as marking 50 years in front of the camera and behind the microphone.

After her death, there were many reports of her generosity and that she’d left vast riches to both her family and those close to her. Black left a $19 million fortune — amassed over her entire career — to her three sons. Each of them, Robert, Ben and Jack Willis, were given about $3.75 million each, after paying the British inheritance tax.

However, due to her $2.5 million Spanish mansion and $2 million Barbados penthouse, the three boys were expected to get slightly more. That’s because these properties were not included as part of Black’s UK estate, according to the Mirror.

She lived in an eight-bedroom Buckinghamshire mansion for 45 years in the village of Denham, and after her death, her sons put the property on the market for about $5.5 million. The home had a tennis court, leisure complex and indoor pool and spa, as well as lush green surroundings.

Black also left her housekeeper, Penny Walker, roughly $25,000. Walker had worked for Black for more than 30 years and was seen by her as “part of the family”, even living in a detached cottage on the grounds of Black’s Buckinghamshire mansion.

A source told The Sun at the time: “She adored her sons and treated Penny as part of the family.”

Cilla Black was born Priscilla Maria Veronica White on May 27, 1943, in a working-class area of Liverpool. She frequented the city’s now legendary Cavern Club, which helped the careers of a number of stars, including The Beatles, after she took a brief job working as a cloakroom assistant.

The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, signed her to a recording contract after seeing her perform. He also gave her the moniker ‘Cilla Black’ after a local newspaper incorrectly reported her name. Rather that complaining, she adopted the name and would be known by it for the rest of her career.

Her legacy was immortalized in 2016 with a life-size bronze statue outside the Cavern Club, as a reminder of where that young girl from Liverpool first sang and made history.

Reference: The Express (May 31, 2022) “Cilla Black’s vast riches and incredible generosity explored as she would have turned 79”

 

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What Kind of Prenup will Soccer Star David Beckham’s Son have to Sign?

The $480 million fortune of 23-year-old Brooklyn’s parents, David and Victoria, is dwarfed by the estimated $1.65 billion wealth of Miss Peltz’s financier father Nelson.

The Daily Mail’s recent article entitled “Brooklyn Beckham and his bride-to-be sign the mother and father of all prenups!” reports that the news of the prenup comes as preparations are underway for the $3.75 million ceremony and party at the Peltz family mansion in Palm Beach.

The wedding – described by friends as “Miami society meets British celebrity” – is expected to be attended by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, actress Eva Longoria and former footballer Phil Neville.

Victoria’s Spice Girls bandmate Melanie Brown – Mel B – has also confirmed that she’s coming to the party.

A prenup is an agreement entered into by two people who get married. It’s signed prior to the marriage.

The prenup lays out the rights and obligations of the parties to each other, in case of death or divorce.

These rights and obligations typically refer to a spouse’s property rights and obligations.

In some instances, a prenup will address custody and child support issues.

It’s wise for each spouse to have a separate lawyer to look at the prenuptial agreement and determine that it will indeed protect the best interests of their client.

The Becker-Peltz wedding will take place at the Peltz family’s $95 million, 44,000 sq. ft. beach house. Nelson and his wife Claudia also have a 27-bedroom mansion near New York which has an ice rink.

Brooklyn and Miss Peltz met in 2017 and started dating two years later. Announcing their engagement on Instagram in July 2020, Brooklyn wrote: “Two weeks ago, I asked my soulmate to marry me and she said yes. I am the luckiest man in the world.”

Her fiancée wrote: “I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life by your side. Your love is the most precious gift.”

Reference: The Daily Mail (April 2, 2022) “Brooklyn Beckham and his bride-to-be sign the mother and father of all prenups!”

 

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What was Stephen Sondheim Estate Plan?

Ninety-one-year-old Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim died suddenly at his Roxbury, Ct. home in November, one day after celebrating Thanksgiving, according to his lawyer and friend F. Richard Pappas at the time.

New York Post’s recent article entitled “Stephen Sondheim left behind an estate worth an estimated $75 million” reports that the “West Side Story” songwriter’s assets totaled about $75 million, according to documents accompanying his 2017 will filed in Manhattan Surrogate’s court last month.

Sondheim’s will gives all of his wealth, including his personal effects, the rights to his music and literary works, to the Stephen J. Sondheim Revocable Trust. Sondheim left his nearly $75 million estate to his husband, charities and other friends as beneficiaries of the trust. The trust was created with Sondheim’s pour-over will, where everything goes to the trust.

It is believed that Sondheim worked with an estate planning attorney to create a very good sound estate plan that will benefit his spouse, as well as friends and charitable organizations that were important to him. It also keeps order of his intellectual property, so there’s somebody managing his musical legacy.

The Broadway legend named 20 people and charities as beneficiaries to his trust, including his husband Jeffrey Romley, the Smithsonian Institute, the Museum of New York City, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the Dramatists Guild Fund and the Irish Repertory Theater Company. His “Into the Woods” collaborator and director James Lapine is also listed as a beneficiary to the trust.

Irish Repertory Theater co-founders Ciarán O’Reilly and Charlotte Moore called the bequest “a lovely surprise.”

Sondheim “never failed to honor us with his staunch support … especially of our musicals and musical adaptations,” their statement continued. “Having ‘Himself’ in our audience, while absolutely terrifying, confirmed our right to venture into the mysterious worlds in which he was the undisputed master.”

Whitney Donhauser, the Ronay Menschel Director of Museum of the City of New York, said in a statement, “We feel honored that Stephen Sondheim — theater titan, lifelong New Yorker and 2013 Louis Auchincloss Prize recipient — recognized our mission as New York’s storyteller, by including us as a beneficiary of his trust.

“His generous contribution allows us to continue sharing the powerful, diverse and important role of the theater in New York City.”

Reference: New York Post (Jan. 23, 2022) “Stephen Sondheim left behind an estate worth an estimated $75 million”

 

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James Brown Estate Battle Resolved … Almost, but Not Quite

A company specializing in buying and marketing estates and song catalogs has bought the assets of James Brown’s estate, including music rights, real estate and control over Brown’s name and likeness. It is hoped that the sale, worth an estimated $90 million, will finally achieve Brown’s wishes to finance scholarships for needy children, according to a recent article from The New York Times titled “After 15 Years of Infighting, James Brown’s Estate is Sold.”

The money will be used to endow the Brown scholarship trust in perpetuity, said the accountant who has served as the Brown estate’s executor since 2009. The deal includes a provision for the buyer, Primary Wave, to also contribute a percentage of future earnings to the scholarships, intended for children in South Carolina, where Brown was born, and Georgia, where he grew up.

This is a step forward in one of the longest and most contentious estate conflicts in the high-profile world of celebrity estates. Multiple lawsuits in state and federal courts have cost millions in legal fees and left behind what one official described as “As big a tangle as you’ve ever seen.”

Part of the mess centered around Ms. Tommie Rae Hynie, a singer who married James Brown in 2001. It was later learned she was already married to another man. With her spousal status unclear, Ms. Hynie and five of Brown’s children battled over the estate. Their goal was to set aside his will and negotiate a settlement of their own to receive big chunks of the estate.

They found a willing listener in a state attorney general and a state judge who approved their agreement in 2009. However, four years later, the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down their settlement, calling it “a dismemberment of Brown’s carefully crafted estate plan.” It also ruled unanimously that Ms. Hynie was not Mr. Brown’s legal spouse.

Brown’s heirs and several executors have also fought over the estate’s value. One estimated it as $5 million, while another put it at $84 million. The discrepancy was claimed to be a result of savvy management of the estate after Brown’s death.

Negotiations for the sale were handled by John Branca, who was Michael Jackson’s longtime attorney and one of the executors of Jackson’s estate.

However, it’s not over yet. For one thing, the longstanding battle between two executors, Mr. Bauknight and Ms. Pope, removed as executor in 2009, isn’t over. She is suing the estate; he and others have filed suit against her. These cases are under appeal and until they are settled, or a court decision is made, no distributions can be made and no scholarships can be paid.

Reference: The New York Times (Dec. 13, 2021) “After 15 Years of Infighting, James Brown’s Estate is Sold.”

 

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Prince Philip’s Will: Are Royals Different than Regular People?

There’s a royal battle brewing over Prince Philip’s will, but it’s not what you might expect. The lawsuit isn’t being brought by a creditor or even a potential beneficiary of the estate, A major United Kingdom newspaper, The Guardian, has instead announced that it’s taking legal action. This is according to a recent article titled “The Legal Battle Over Prince Philip’s Will” from Wealth Management.

The newspaper is arguing that the press should be allowed to attend the hearing for the will and claims that doing so constitutes a serious interference with principle of open justice. In other words, the Royal Family is a public family, funded by the public and the public is entitled to know what’s in the will.

A hearing was held in September concerning keeping the will sealed for 90 years, and the press was neither notified nor invited. The only people in attendance were Prince Philip’s estate attorney and an Attorney General. The court’s position is that the presence of the Attorney General represented the people.

British law is similar to American law, when it comes to making wills public. Once the will goes into probate, following the death of the person, it’s a public document. This is why estate planning attorneys recommend using trusts, which remain private and allow assets to pass outside of the probate process. It’s also why certain information should never be in a will, like financial account titles and numbers.

The idea of sealing a will is an exception under rare circumstances, and in England this has to date only been done for the royal family. The president of the family division of the high court ruled that these exceptions are necessary to enhance the protection of the royal’s private lives and the dignity of the sovereign and other close family members.

There have been many attempts to challenge the privacy of royal wills. So far, none has been successful.

The question posed by this lawsuit concerning the public’s right to know is not a new one. However, it will be interesting to watch in a day and age when royalty and the role of the royal family is under severe scrutiny.

The royal family is funded by taxpayers, who routinely question how much privacy should be permitted when the money comes from their pockets. Whether such special rules are really needed to protect the “integrity” of the royals has been an on-going debate in the U.K.

In the United States, individuals and families use trusts and other methods to maximize their privacy and to convey assets to their heirs.

Reference: Wealth Management (Dec. 1, 2021) “The Legal Battle Over Prince Philip’s Will”

 

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Is Prince’s Estate Settled Yet?

The long-running estate battle over Prince’s estate may be coming to a close, according to a recent article from Yahoo! News, “Minnesota probate court set to discuss ‘final distribution’ of Prince estate in February.” The Carver County probate court has set a date to start talking about Prince’s assets with heirs and beneficiaries.

Prince died of a fentanyl overdose in April 2016, with no estate plan. Administering the estate and coming up with a plan for its distribution among heirs has cost tens of millions of dollars, in an estate estimated at more than $100 million. One of many obstacles in settling the estate: a complicated dispute with the IRS over the value of Prince’s assets.

The estate will be almost evenly split between a music company—Primary Wave—and the three oldest of the pop icon’s eldest six heirs or their families.

Primary Wave bought out all or most of the interests of Prince’s three youngest siblings, one of whom died in August 2019. Three older siblings, including one who died in September 2021, rejected the offers from Primary Wave.

Comerica Bank & Trust, the administrator of the estate, settled with the IRS over the value of the estate, according to a late November filing in the U.S. Tax Court. The Carver County probate court has to approve this agreement.

Another tax dispute, this one between Prince’s estate and the state of Minnesota, has not yet been resolved.

Last year, the IRS set a value of $163.2 million on Prince’s estate. Comerica valued the estate at $82.3 million—nearly half of the IRS value. The value was so low the IRS penalized the estate with a $6.4 million “accuracy-related penalty.” Comerica followed by suing the IRS in U.S. Tax Court, saying the IRS calculations were loaded with mistakes. With the settlement now underway, the tax trial has been cancelled. The estate and the IRS have been ordered to file a status report on the case in February 2022.

The IRS and Comerica agreed on the value of Prince’s real estate holdings at $33 million. The harder task was to place a value on intangible assets, like Prince’s music rights.

The full IRS settlement most likely led to the probate court setting a date for a hearing. With the settlement, certain parts of the estate may move forward.

However, don’t expect it to be quick. It may be months before the court approves any distributions.

The lesson from Prince’s estate: everyone needs an estate plan, whether the estate is modest or includes multi-million assets and multiple heirs. Tens of millions in legal fees plus a $6.4 million penalty from the IRS adds up, even when the estate is this big.

Reference: Yahoo! News (Dec. 22, 2021) “Minnesota probate court set to discuss ‘final distribution’ of Prince estate in February”

 

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Court Upholds Kelly Clarkson’s Prenup

News outlet TMZ reported that Kelly Clarkson was on the set of her TV show, The Voice, when she heard the news and “let out a scream” of joy, with fellow coaches Blake Shelton and Ariana Grande about her prenup.

The Daily Mail’s recent article entitled “Kelly Clarkson’s prenup UPHELD by judge in divorce battle” says that while Clarkson was filming the singing competition, she received an email from her lawyers informing her of the good news that her prenup had been kept in place. As a result, she’ll keep the bulk of her assets and income.

In July, Clarkson, who is estimated to be worth $45 million, was ordered to temporarily pay ex-husband Brandon Blackstock about $200,000/month in spousal and child support. Court documents also showed some details of Clarkson’s finances: she personally earns $1,583,617 a month. With the court’s decision, Clarkson will keep most of their assets, including the Montana ranch where her ex-husband is currently living.

Blackstock had been contesting the prenup and wanted to split their properties 50/50, as well as the money she earned throughout their marriage, but a judge denied this request.

A judge found for Clarkson that the signed prenup had to be taken into account. The pop star now has the right to sell the Montana ranch because she’s the one who bought it.

The parties’ divorce has been bifurcated—which means that the end of the marriage has officially been declared. Clarkson has been awarded primary custody of their minor children – River and Remington.

It was previously reported that Clarkson would pay 70% of her children’s school fees and expenses. However, she had refused to pay for the Montana ranch. The judge ordered that Blackstock carry the financial burden of his Montana ranch that costs around $81,000 a month to run in expenses. Now it looks as though Clarkson will sell it.

Blackstock is currently living at the ranch and is using it as his primary residence. He’s earning around $10k a month. In comparison, Clarkson was bringing home around $1.5M a month.

Court documents confirm that Kelly will continue to pay her ex $150,000 per month while the divorce case continues, as well as $45,000 in child support. Clarkson has sold a staggering 25 million albums and 45 million singles worldwide in her career, and currently has her own hit talk-show. She started dating Blackstock, a country music manager, in 2011. They married in 2013.

Reference: Daily Mail (Aug. 13, 2021) “Kelly Clarkson’s prenup UPHELD by judge in divorce battle”