Monthly Archives: May 2010

Dennis Hopper’s wife to continue fight into probate court

The recent legal battles between the ailing Dennis Hopper and his wife in divorce court have been well-documented.  Here are the Probate Lawyer Blog’s articles covering the case, including the Top Ten most hurtful allegations lobbed back and forth (a serious must-read!). Dennis Hopper

Now that Hopper has passed on due to his prostate cancer, on May 29th, at age 74, TMZ.com is reporting that his widow is already gearing up to challenge his estate in probate court.  Victoria Duffy-Hopper claimed that Hopper’s divorce filing was motivated by an effort to cut her out of his estate plan.

Reportedly, the couple’s prenuptial agreement calls for her to get 25% of his estate and $250,000 in life insurance proceeds, as long as they were both married and living together.  Because the divorce was not finalized when he died, they were still married (even though they were separated).  But, were they living together?

Duffy-Hopper (according to TMZ) is prepared to challenge the prenup in probate court and will argue they were “living together” because

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Songwriter Danny Tate wins long court fight to be set free

Guardianship and conservatorship proceedings exist to help those who are incapacitated, usually due to age or disability, and can’t make proper decisions for themselves. While these court cases help many thousands of people each year, they can also expose people to fraud and abuse.  Danny Tate

Many believe that Nashville, Tennessee musician Danny Tate was one of the very unfortunate who was abused by the system. Tate had written music for popular TV shows Entertainment Tonight and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, as well as a top 10 hit in the 1980’s. Yet his lifetime of savings of more than $600,000, and yearly royalty earnings of $125,000, are almost completely gone. And he’s only 54 years old.

Why? Because in 2007, his brother convinced a probate court judge that Danny was so addicted to crack cocaine that his life was in jeopardy, and he was unable to make legal, financial and medical decisions for himself.

Danny was not even told of the initial court hearing. He was not given an attorney. At a Read more...

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New allegations of abuse filed in Melvin Simon estate fight

Melvin Simon was one of the richest men in the Midwest until he died last year, at age 82.  A co-owner of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, he built most of his fortune developing and owning shopping malls.  Melvin Simon estate have been estimated to be worth close to $2 billion.  That vast fortune is tied up in a nasty legal battle over his will and trust, as explained in this prior article of The Probate Lawyer BlogMelvin Simon estate

Like many second-marriage situations, the widow, Bren, does not get along with the Mel Simon’s children from a prior marriage (to say the least!).  And they aren’t too fond of Bren either.  The children, led by daughter Deborah, sued because Simon signed new estate planning documents seven months before he died, raising Bren’s inheritance from one-third up to one-half, at the expense of the children.

Why did the kids challenge this (other than the obvious)?  For one, they claim Mel was so sick from cancer, dementia and neurological disorders that he couldn’t

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Magazine Article: Lessons of Famously Bad Estate Planning

The May 2010 issue of Insurance News Net Magazine, written for insurance and other financial professionals, has a great feature on how lessons drawn from famous estate screw-ups can help promote proper estate planning.  (Gee, that sounds familiar.)  

Co-author of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights!, Danielle Mayoras, was quoted extensively in the article, and several stories and lessons from our book were featured in the story.  Here’s the beginning of the article:

Admit it: You can’t resist celebrity news. You’re standing at the grocery checkout behind someone who still uses checks, and then you notice the gossip rags. You can’t help but look and shake your head: “Tiger Woods did what? Brad wants to remarry Jennifer? Kirstie Alley is obese—again?”

Let’s face it—celebrity foibles are even more enticing than are the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups calling your name. Sex might sell, but silliness does too. And celebrity screw-ups can help sell one of the most unsexy things out there: estate planning.

Sure, people know they should have a

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Brain Walker Estate Fight: Widow of England millionaire in an interesting estate fight

Battles over the assets of those who have passed are far too common, for millionaires and non-millionaires alike.  Usually they involve whether someone was competent when a will or trust change was made, whether a joint bank account owner was supposed to share with the rest of the family, who gets the wedding ring, or other disputes over money and property.

But some fights aren’t about money.

59-year old Andrea Walker was crushed when her 64-year old husband died of pancreatic cancer last August.  The couple (who owned a 1000-year-old castle turned into a luxury hotel) had a rocky relationship at times.  In fact, the husband, Brian Walker, reportedly told Andrea he was leaving her in November, 2008, only to return when his cancer was diagnosed a few months later.  They were very close in the months leading up to his demise, with Andrea devoting herself to Brian’s care.

At least Andrea thought they were very close.

Shortly after he passed, she found a red file Brian had kept. What

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