Monthly Archives: March 2010

Anna Nicole Smith Estate loses out on $88 Million

Can the Granddaddy of all probate disputes finally be nearing an end?  Those in charge of the Anna Nicole Smith Estate certainly hope not.  Smith, also known as Vickie Lynn Marshall, battled for a share of her late husband’s multi-billion dollar estate for almost 12 years before she died.  Here’s the Probate Lawyer Blog’s discussion of the case to bring you up to speed. 

To cut to the chase, Smith was broken hearted when she didn’t inherit anything from the estate or trust of J. Howard Marshall II, her late husband (who was more than 60 years older than she was).  Smith filed legal claims seeking a piece of his fortune in two different states; she lost in Texas but won in California.  Her victory was snatched away by the federal court of appeals, but she found new hope when that ruling was overturned by the United States Supreme Court in 2006.  Yes, that’s right, the highest court in our land ruled in favor of the ex-Playboy Playmate.

But, now,

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Michael Jackson Estate’s record deal raises questions

The Probate Lawyer Blog featured this article about the Michael Jackson Estate several weeks ago, posing the question of whether it is ethical for estate executors to seek a 10% fee for certain business deals they reach for such a high-profile estate.  It’s especially problematic when you factor in that one of the executors was Michael Jackson’s attorney.  Michael Jackson Estate

Well, this attorney, John Branca, and his co-executor, John McClain (a music executive), just hit the mother-load.  It was widely reported yesterday that they brokered a deal worth up to $250 million dollars (that’s right — one quarter of a billion dollars!). What was the deal for?  Sony announced a seven-year distribution agreement for unreleased music recorded by the late King of Pop (as well as related video footage).

Yes that means that Branca and McClain earned $12.5 million each for one deal.

Why do we question this?  For several reasons, actually.  First, it’s the job of executors to bring in as much money as possible for an estate that has earning

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The Redd Foxx Estate mess

There was an interesting article recently in AOL News about the Redd Foxx Estate.  The successful comedian and star of Sanford and Son (whose real name was John Elroy Sanford) died October 11, 1991.  Apparently, the Estate has no assets.  Even if it did, there’s an outstanding tax bill owed that’s a bit hefty — a whopping $3.6 million as of the day he died.  Redd Foxx estate

But the court-appointed executor for the estate is trying to change all that.  John Cahill, who is a public administrator in Las Vegas (where the estate is pending) was put in charge in 2007.  The prior administrator was Debraca Foxx, Foxx’s daughter, who was removed from her position in 2006.  Apparently, she failed to comply with a court order to account for what she had done with royalties and other monies the estate brought in under her watch.

In fact, Foxx’s widow (and fourth wife), Ka Ho Foxx, accused Debraca of stealing the money instead of paying down the tax debt.

Since Cahill took over,

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LA Times article about estate planning

The business section of Sunday’s Los Angeles Times featured an article called “Time to prepare your will”.  Discussing the importance of estate planning, the article included quotes from both of us.  Here’s a few selections from the article:

If you’re rich, the best estate planning advice would be to die quickly. If you’re not, the best advice is to either review or rewrite your estate planning documents to make sure your heirs aren’t left high and dry if you die.


FOR THE RECORD: The Personal Finance column about estate planning in Sunday’s Business section misidentified the book “Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!” by Andrew W. Mayoras and Danielle B. Mayoras as “Trial & Errors: Famous Fortune Fights.” 


That’s because estate taxes that could allow Uncle Sam to nab up to 45% of your bequeathed assets are currently — and very temporarily — kaput. 

A decade-long phase-out of the estate tax eliminated the tax completely as of January. The catch: If nothing’s done, estate taxes will boomerang back to historic

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Brittany Murphy Estate: she did update her estate plan, after all

Actress Brittany Murphy died tragically at age 32 a few months ago.  Within a day of her passing, celebrity website TMZ reported that Murphy failed to update her will after her marriage to Simon Monjack, her husband of 2 1/2 years.  Instead, her will left everything to her mother.  The Probate Lawyer Blog’s article about it reminded people that updating wills and trusts after important life changes, like a marriage, is very important . . .  even for 32-year olds.  Brittany Murphy Estate

TMZ is now reporting that, according to Monjack, the story wasn’t entirely accurate.  While she did have a prior handwritten will naming her mother as her beneficiary, Murphy did update her estate plan after her marriage, complete with a will and trust.  Monjack said he asked Murphy to include a provision stating “I am married to Simon Monjack who I have intentionally left out of this will.”

That provision was important because, without it, Monjack may still have inherited some of her assets as a “pretermitted spouse”.  By specifically mentioning

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Motion Magazine book review of Trial and Heirs

Review of “Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!” by Motion Magazine, part of LegalNews.com:

Anna Nicole Smith, Ray Charles, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger …  what do they all have in common?

They were all celebrities, they’re no longer among the living, and they all can teach us a lesson.

At least according to husband and wife legacy expert attorneys Andrew W. Mayoras and Danielle B. Mayoras, authors of “Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!” The book dishes out drama using celebrity cases to highlight the importance of proper estate planning.

The Mayorases compiled and researched these high-profile celebrity cases with Danielle, who specializes in estate planning education, taking on the title of “Queen of Heirs” while Andrew used his probate litigation experience as “King of Trials.”

Satisfying readers’ voyeuristic side with the engaging stories of celebrity heir in-fighting isn’t the book’s only draw.

Featured on The Rachael Ray Show, WGN Chicago, and Forbes.com, “Trial & Heirs” can be utilized by those seeking to spark the

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