Gene Wilder’s Struggle With Alzheimer’s Disease Teaches Planning Lesson

The death of Gene Wilder saddened Willa Wonka fans across the globe — not to mention fans of  Blazin’ Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and many others.  When his family issued a statement saying that Alzheimer’s disease claimed his life, it served as a valuable lesson.  Alzheimer’s disease is a killer.  As Wilder’s family aptly described it, it’s an “illness-pirate.”

Gene Wilder's Struggle With Alzheimer'sGene Wilder is far from the first famous actor to fall victim to Alzheimer’s.  Jimmy Stewart, Peter Falk, Charlton Heston, and Rita Hayworth are just a few others.  And of course the disease has attacked celebrities from many different industries, including Hollywood producers like Aaron Spelling, politicians like Ronald Reagan, singers like Etta James and Glen Campbell, and sports celebrities like basketball coach Pat Summitt and ball manager Sparky Anderson.

Sadly, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.  It always leads to death.  While the official cause-of-death for most celebrities who suffered from the disease is usually listed as another affliction, such as a pneumonia or sepsis, Alzheimer’s disease Read more...

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Tom Clancy Family Estate Dispute Resolved After Years Of Fighting

While the final Tom Clancy estate battle may not have been as exciting as the climactic scenes in The Hunt for Red October or Patriot Games, the struggle between author Tom Clancy’s widow and four adult children over his $86 million estate is now over.  The seven justices on the Maryland Court of Appeals (the highest court in Maryland) were asked to rule about what a key clause in the codicil to Clancy’s will actually meant.  While it was close — four votes to three — the ruling marked a decisive victory for Clancy’s widow.Tom Clancy Estate Dispute

Considering that Tom Clancy is one of the best-selling authors of all time, it is ironic that the fight boiled down to how to interpret a clause in his estate planning documents that was written in an unclear manner.

The dispute centered around a provision in Clancy’s second codicil (which means amendment) to his will.  The will, originally signed in 2007, divided Clancy’s assets into three trusts:  one-third for his wife, another third for Read more...

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Battle Coming For Muhammad Ali Estate, But It May End In A Knock-Out

Muhammad Ali was never one to shy away from battles.  From heavyweight champions in the boxing ring, to the United States Government, and to the ravaging effects of Parkinson’s disease, Ali continued to fight.  Now there are growing fears that the fight will follow him into the grave, with mounting reports of trouble on the horizon for his estate and his legacy.  Muhammad Ali Estate

The circumstances are ripe for an estate battle.  Muhammad Ali fathered nine recognized children (including his adopted son from his most recent marriage) over the course of four different marriages.  Estate disputes between the surviving spouse and children from prior marriages are the most common source of trouble in probate courts across our country.  Add in the reality of Ali’s long-standing struggles with Parkinson’s disease — which can have not only physical effects, but mental as well — and there is a strong possibility that unhappy heirs may file challenges in court.

Muhammad Ali’s Estate Could Be Worth More After His Passing

And, of course, there is the

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Prince, Tupac, And Snoop Dogg: 5 Top Musical Estate Planning Mistakes

Prince died without a will. So did Tupac Shakur, Bob Marley, and many other legendary musicians.  Snoop Dogg doesn’t even want a will.  Prince

The question is:  Why?

It seems like such a basic concept; everyone needs a will.  Otherwise the laws of the state you live in determine who receives your assets and controls your legacy after you die.  Without a will, you have no say in what happens, and the chances of a family fight increase dramatically.

Even though a will is relatively simple to create, studies consistently show that between 60% and two-thirds of adult Americans don’t have a will.  All states recognize a “holographic” will, which is one in your own hand-writing.  They are perfectly valid as long as a couple basic conditions are met.  This is not to say they are perfect by any means, but usually better than nothing.  And most lawyers can create a basic will for a few hundred dollars or even less.

Even when an estate is modest is size, dying intestate Read more...

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The Prince Estate: Trouble Brewing And Still No Will After 1st Court Hearing

Despite the probate process having just begun for Prince’s Estate, one thing is clear — it will be a long and rocky road for everyone involved.

Prince's EstateWhile no one can dispute the artistic and creative greatness of the artist whose real name was Prince Rogers Nelson, the famed singer’s business smarts were often overlooked. Prince closely maintained and guarded ownership and control over the rights to his music, including the publishing rights, master recordings, performance royalties, and more. He famously stored hundreds of unreleased songs in his “vault”, to be released only when he wanted them to be made public.

The value of this music cannot be known until the contents of the vault are revealed, but estimates of Prince’s net worth based the earnings and future royalty rights to music already released range from $300 million to $500 million.

Those figures may be too low. His music sales have already soared by more than 16,000% in the days following his sudden death. That bump could only be the beginning. Read more...

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The David Bowie Estate Shows His Genius Extended Beyond Music

Only a very few pop artists enjoyed careers as diverse, colorful, and successful as David Bowie.  He remained fascinating and on the cutting-edge, up until the very end, in ways that extended far beyond making music.  David Bowie Estate

Bowie, whose real name was David Robert Jones (and who didn’t want to be confused with Davy Jones), passed away from liver cancer a mere two days after the release of his latest album, Blackstar, on his 69th birthday.  Knowing that his cancer was terminable, many people believe Bowie intended his last album — featuring lyrics about mortality — to be a farewell.  In fact, the tract, Lazurus, begins with the line, “Look up here, I’m in heaven,” and ends with, “Oh, I’ll be free … Just like that bluebird … Oh, I’ll be free … Ain’t that just like me?”

It’s fair to say there was no one else like David Bowie.  He was truly one-of-a-kind, from his iconic music, various personas, and his ever-adapting image, to his finances.


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Celebrity Legacies: Conflicts Plagued Tupac Shakur Before And After Death

Tupac Shakur was well-known for his “Thug” image, his rap prowess, and his many Tupac Shakur's estateconflicts — leading up to the tragic shooting that took his life at age 25.  So should anyone be surprised at the high number of legal battles involving Tupac Shakur’s estate?  Or that Shakur could continue to be a pioneer in rap music, even years after his death?

This is installment #17 of our Estate Planning Lessons From The Stars series, which is based on the Celebrity Legacies TV show for which we provide commentary as the estate legal experts.  See other articles in the series here.

Tupac Shakur came to fame in large part due to his battles with police, inspiring lyrics in his first solo release so violent that Dan Quayle publicly denounced them — building Shakur’s “Thug” image in the process.  In the same time frame, he was arrested five times for violent crimes, leading to numerous criminal charges and civil lawsuits, culminating in a confrontation during which he was shot multiple Read more...

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Bill Cosby Headlines The Top Ten Celebrity Legal Battles Of 2015

What better way to start the new year than by counting down Trial & Heirs Top Ten Celebrity Legal Battles of 2015, complete with lessons?

  1. Bill Cosby vs. many woman – Andrea Constad is one of dozens of women who have sued Cosby for defamation, accusing the comedian and actor of lying when he denied sexually abusing them years ago.  In Constad’s civil lawsuit, Cosby’s deposition was unsealed, revealing that he admitted giving women quaaludes and having intercourse with them.  He says both the drug use and sex were consensual.  Recently, a Pennsylvania district attorney brought charges against Cosby for sexual assault based on the 2004 encounter with Constad.

    Bill Cosby: A History of Alleged Rapes and Cover-Ups

    Lesson:  When victims of assault or other injuries wait too long, they lose the right to sue under the statute of limitations.  The specific length of time varies based on what state the events happened in and what type of claim is brought.  That’s why most of the accusers are suing Cosby

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Trial and Heirs Top Estate Planning Tips for 2016

It’s the beginning of the year, which means that we all have well-intended New Year’s resolutions.  The diet, the exercise regimen, saving money…and finally doing our estate planning and financial planning.  The celebrity stories in Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! can help motivate you to actually do your estate planning this year.  Really!

Here are some of our easy-to-use estate planning tips for the new year:

1.  Get your financial affairs organized this year.  Create an “asset” list, including the account numbers, names of financial institutions, and related information for your insurance, stocks, bonds, CDs, securities, bank accounts and other investments.

2.  Store your asset list and your estate planning documents in a fireproof box, safe, or safety deposit box.  Remember to make sure that your loved ones can find and access these documents!  We have an Estate Planning Organizer to help you with this.  Just email us at if you want to learn more.

3.  Review and update your estate planning documents and your financial plan Read more...

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Five Celebrity Conversation Starters For The Holidays

Danielle & Andy - croppedAcross the country in December, families will be coming together for the holidays.  Sometimes the holidays are one of the few times of year that family members see each other. They eat, share stories, and laugh together. Of course, there may be a few family squabbles, but hopefully no mashed-potato flinging. Or will there be? Overall, the holidays are rare opportunities for family members to have face-to-face conversations. One critical conversation is talking about estate planning — what happens legally when a loved one passes away.

Trial & Heirs Top Tips For The Holidays from Trial And Heirs on Vimeo.

What questions will these tips help you answer?
What will happen once mom and dad pass away?

Have they done their will or trust?  Is it updated?
What professionals do they work with?
Where are the documents located?

The celebrity stories in “Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!” can help you translate the estate planning talk into a fun and entertaining discussion. Really! Here Read more...

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