Monthly Archives: February 2010

Dennis Hopper battling his wife; says she’s after his will

Dennis Hopper was already fighting against advanced prostrate cancer.  Now the 73-year-old actor is turning up the heat in his battle against his wife, 41-year-old Victoria.  He filed for divorce in January, and according to published reports, the key factor is his will.  

Victoria is a 25% beneficiary under Hopper’s will.  But, in the case of divorce, the couple’s prenuptial agreement says that she gets nothing.  And that’s the sole motivating factor behind the divorce, according to Victoria.  She blames his three children from a prior marriage and says that Dennis is not making rational decisions, due in large part to the medication he’s taking.

In other words, she says it’s all about the estate planning.

And it’s hard to argue with that point.  Dennis Hopper’s lawyer was in court last week, seeking a restraining order against Victoria to keep her away from him.  His attorney filed a doctor’s report saying that his estranged wife is hampering his recovery.  The doctor feels that the less he sees of her, the

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Kiplinger’s article: Cut the Lawyer out of your Will?

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine has an interesting article that’s coming out in the March 2010 issue, about do-it-yourself estate planning.  It was written by Jane Bennett Clark, Senior Associate Editor:

You’ve been dragging your feet for ages on writing a will and drawing up other estate-planning documents. Now, to avoid the hassle and expense of hiring a lawyer, you’re considering using online forms to get the job done. Companies such as Nolo, LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer allow you to do just that. Not only do they provide do-it-yourself estate-planning documents, but they also offer guidance on filling them out and general information on estate-planning issues.

The cost for such off-the-rack estate planning? As little as $50 for a simple will to $220 or so for a package that includes a will and a living trust. That’s cheap compared with the $300 a lawyer might charge for a simple will or the $1,000 or more that a comprehensive estate plan might run you. Still, you get what you pay for, says

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Heritage book review of Trial and Heirs

There was a great book review of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! that came out Friday.  Here’s a portion of it:

“If you do nothing else of consequence for your life in 2010, make a will.”

According to University of Michigan graduates Andrew and Danielle Mayoras, both attorneys, two-thirds of Americans don’t have one.

I do, and my editor has a trust, but an informal poll in the Heritage newsroom at an editorial meeting proved that of the nine people sitting there, two of us had a will.

And, truth be told, mine seriously needs updating.

Reading this book has compelled me to do something about it in a smarter way than I had done in the past.

The Detroit couple’s book, “Trial and Heirs,” will jump start you in the right direction, too. Not only is a fun read, but also an important one — one that should become the basis of family meetings everywhere.

You’ll learn why it’s important for everyone to do estate planning. According to

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Forbes: Get Them Jamming On Estate Planning

Danielle Mayoras, who co-authored Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! with me, recently wrote an article for Forbes.com to help financial advisers, attorneys, and other professionals get their clients talking about estate planning, using celebrity stories.  Most people don’t like to even discuss the legal planning for what happens after they die, much less actually do the planning.

That’s why celebrity stories can help break the ice and get the conversation started.  Here’s her Forbes.com article with specific tips on how:

As professionals, one of the challenges that we have is motivating our clients to do their estate planning. You can educate clients about the proper estate planning and how it can help them, their families and their estate tax returns. The fact of the matter remains, however, that many clients will have excuses to push their legal planning to the back burner.

Reasons that you may have heard include being too busy with kids, jobs or parents to take the time to do the planning. Others may be uncomfortable

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Judge rules that Feng Shui Master forged Nina Wang’s will

The Nina Wang case captivated Asia in much the same way the Brooke Astor case made headlines in New York last year.  Only, instead of questions surrounding whether a multi-millionaire’s will was invalid, the Nina Wang case involved whether Tony Chan Chun-chuen forged the will of Asia’s richest woman, to the tune of about thirteen billion dollars, according to some estimates.  She died at age 69 in 2007.

The case raged for months, and The Probate Lawyer Blog featured several articles about it.  The Hong Kong judge carefully deliberated since closing arguments took place in late September.  Earlier today, the High Court released the 326-page ruling that declared Wang’s 2006 will to be a forgery.

Nina Wang case
Tony Chan contended that Wang had left him her fortune because, rather than being a mere feng shui adviser for her, he was also her secret lover.  Of course, he was married during the affair.  And he was 20 years younger than she was.

Lawyers for the Wang family and charities (the vast majority Read more...

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The wars over the final wishes of Bill Davidson & Mel Simon

William Davidson and Melvin Simon had a lot in common.  Both were billionaires and both were Jewish.  Simon built his fortune through the country’s biggest shopping mall company, Simon Property Group, and Forbes estimated his net worth at $1.3 billion.  Davidson led Guardian Industries Corp., one of the world’s largest glass suppliers, and had a fortune recently tabbed at $4.5 billion.

They also each owned NBA franchises in the midwest.  Davidson owned the Detroit Pistons (yeah!), while Simon co-owned the rival Indiana Pacers (boo!) with his brother, Herbert Simon.

Both men died last year, with Davidson passing away at age 86 in March and Simon passing in October, at age 82.  And both were survived by spouses as well as children from prior marriages.

And, in both instances, the spouse and the children from the prior marriage did not see eye to eye.  Because of that, both the Davidson Estate and Simon Estate are mired in lawsuits about the true wishes of the beloved billionaires.

In Davidson’s case, there are Read more...

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