Tag Archives: Wills

Celebrity Legacies: The Battle Over Marilyn Monroe’s Iconic Legacy

Marilyn Monroe left a legacy that seems to grow brighter each year.  Monroe’s image and likeness were so valuable that a multi-million dollar lawsuit over her publicity rights raged on, more than fifty years after she died, until it was finally resolved by a federal court of appeals.  Marilyn Monroe's legacy

The second wife of Marilyn Monroe’s acting coach was in the center of it.  Why did she — whom Monroe barely even knew — have control of the image and legacy of one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars ever?

This is installment #10 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.

Marilyn Monroe, whose real name was Norma Jean Baker, had a difficult childhood.  Her mother struggled with mental illness, and Monroe didn’t know for sure who her father was, much less have a relationship with him.  She was raised in a series of Read more...

| Leave a comment

Whitney Houston’s Will Was Far From Perfect

Whitney Houston’s will was recently revealed, after it was filed with the probate court to open her estate, in Atlanta, Georgia.  As expected, it named Bobbi Kristina as Whitney’s sole beneficiary.  Beyond that, it was surprising for several reasons.

Whitney Houston's Will

Image via Wikipedia

First, the fact that Whitney relied on a will — signed back in 1993 no less — instead of a living trust is troubling.  We’re talking about the woman who signed the largest recording contract in history!  If anyone should have thorough estate planning, including a living trust, it was Whitney.

Why?  Wills have to pass through probate court to be effective, which makes them public record.  That’s why information about the contents of her will is all over the internet.  Inside Edition, for example, posted a copy of the will, here.  In addition to be public, probate can be expensive, time-consuming, and a breeding ground for family fights.

Living trusts, on the other hand, when properly-used, keep matters private and outside of probate court.  Most Read more...

| Leave a comment

What Do Estate Tax Laws Mean To Your Family?

Danielle Mayoras was recently interviewed by Kim Vatis of NBC Chicago for her Smart Money finance feature:

If you think tax season is over, think again.

The Tax Relief Act of 2010 has changed the rules for estate taxes. And while Congress is giving families a gift, they need to act now and plan.

“2011 to 2013 is critical,” said estate planning attorney Danielle Mayoras. “Take advantage of the laws while we have them.”
How to Save Money on Moving

As of this year, the federal exemption for estate taxes is $5 million dollars, but that will go down to $1 million in 2013.

In Illinois, the exemption is just $2 million, meaning a lot more middle class families here could be affected.

“It’s not just the money in the bank,” reminded Mayoras.

Death benefits on life insurance, your 401ks and the fair market value on your home are all part of your estate and could add up to $2 million dollars quicker than you think, she explained.

The death

Read more...
| 2 Comments

James Brown’s Estate Fight Still Rocking On

The battle over James Brown’s final wishes began very shortly after the Godfather of Soul passed away on Christmas Day of 2006. And it’s still going strong.

The probate judge approved a settlement among his heirs in 2009, seemingly ending the fight then. One-half of his estate was to pass to charity through a trust, and the other one-half divided between his widow and his children. You can read about the prior settlement here.

But don’t forget about his former manager! What does she have to do with anything? It seems that Jacquelyne Hollander believes she should have been involved in the settlement too. She didn’t like being left out.

Hollander had sued Brown for sexual assault when he was alive (but lost, because she waited too long to sue). Now she’s sued, multiple times, to stop the settlement. Her most-recent lawsuit is still going on in federal court in California.

Why did she sue? What could have been done to prevent all this fighting? What can you learn Read more...

| Leave a comment

Elizabeth Taylor Estate: Will Her Family Fight Over Her Estate?

Widely recognized as one of the best and most popular actresses of all times, Elizabeth Taylor’s death this week at the age of 79 caused great sadness throughout Hollywood — and indeed the whole world. Given her success, both on the screen and off, perhaps it should be no surprise that Elizabeth Taylor’s fortune has just been estimated to be worth as much as one billion dollars. Elizabeth Taylor estate

Why so much? Certainly movie royalties alone could not account for that kind of value in her estate. Instead, as ABC News recently reported, her perfume and other business ventures were groundbreaking and highly profitable.

The ABC News article also included portions of an interview with both of us, in which we addressed what one would expect in terms of estate planning for a person of such great wealth and fame. But, as we explained in the interview, there are many examples of wealthy Hollywood celebrities who pass away with very poor estate planning, or no planning at all.

Michael Jackson had Read more...

| Leave a comment

Gary Coleman’s Ashes Sit While his Ex-Wife Fights his Estate

Shannon Price and Gary Coleman enjoyed a brief, but love-filled marriage until they divorced in 2008. How do we know it was so loving? Because, according to Price, they remained together as common-law husband and wife, even after they divorced.

That’s right, she says they lived together, enjoyed marital relations, and considered themselves to be a married couple until Coleman passed away at age 42 on May 28, 2010. Utah is one of the few states that permits common-law marriages.

And whether they truly were a common-law married couple is the focus of the estate fight currently brewing now. It doesn’t make much sense for a couple to get divorced, as Coleman and Price did, but then become a common-law married couple.

Perhaps that’s why the estate fight has dragged on so long. Price’s spokesperson said that she’s battling in part to be able to receive Coleman’s ashes so she can properly lay them to rest … that is, she wants to lay most of them to rest.

She wants Read more...

| Leave a comment

Mary Talks Money with Danielle & Andy

Mary Talks Money, of ABC’s Live Well Network, sits down with Danielle & Andy as they share the missteps of the rich & famous to help prevent family fights in your family. Here is part one of a two-part series segment. Stay tuned for part two!

Danielle and Andy Mayoras are co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, husband-and-wife legacy expert attorneys, and hosts of an upcoming national PBS special based on Trial & Heirs. The charismatic duo has appeared on the Rachael Ray Show, Forbes, ABC’s Live Well Network, WGN-TV and has lent their expertise and analysis to hundreds of media sources, including The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Kiplinger’s, and The Washington Post, among many others. As dynamic keynote speakers, Danielle and Andy delight audiences nationwide with highly entertaining and informative presentations, dishing the dirt on celebrity estate battles while dispensing important legal information to help people avoid family fights among their heirs. The couple spends their free time with their 8-year old son Read more...

| Leave a comment

Will of John Edwards’ wife revealed

Elizabeth Edwards, the estranged wife of former Vice-President Candidate John Edwards, passed away from cancer on December 7, 2010 at the age of 61.  A mere 6 days before she died, Elizabeth created a new will … one that didn’t mention her husband, even once.  220px-ElizabethEdwardsReno

Who can blame her?  After all, John first denied — then admitted to — having an affair, which produced a child, whom he first denied — but then admitted — was his.

Many media reports about this will say that John was cut out completely and Elizabeth left everything to her children.  This isn’t entirely true.

In reality, Elizabeth left everything except her personal property to a revocable living trust she created, the Anania Edwards Trust (“Anania” was her maiden name).  Because trusts, unlike wills, are private documents, we don’t know for certain who the beneficiaries of her trust are.

But, it’s safe to assume John isn’t one of them.  On the other hand, he could change that.  Spouses in North Carolina, as in most Read more...

| Leave a comment

Ronni Chasen Estate: Murdered Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen has missing will

Ronni Chasen was a top Hollywood publicist until she was brutally shot and murdered on November 16, 2010, in Beverly Hills, California.  She left behind no children and no spouse, but a detailed will and assets valued at more than six million dollars.Chasen_ronni_publicist

You can download and read Ronni Chasen’s 51-page will here, courtesy of Eonline.

The police reportedly have solid leads related to the slaying of the 64-year old, after they approached a hitman named Harold Smith.  Smith shot himself as police approached to apprehend him.

While the drama surrounding her death certainly overshadows Ronni Chasen estate, there could be some conflict arising there as well.  Chasen’s will leaves most of her wealth to one of her nieces, while the other niece was left only $10.

That niece, Jill Gatsby, told E! News:

That’s a real family secret regarding Ronni and my career as a writer which I am choosing to keep to myself at this time.

She implies that this secret relates to why she was

Read more...
| Leave a comment

John Steinbeck Estate: Heirs Fighting 40 Years After He Died

American icon John Steinbeck, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and Pulitzer Prize, having authored such classics as Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden, died at age 66 in 1968.  Even a mind as creative as his likely couldn’t have envisioned a fight over his property continuing to rage more than 40 years after he died.

When he died, much of John Steinbeck estate passed to his third wife, Elaine (whom he married in 1950).  He did  not specifically include the literary rights to his works, so they passed under the residual clause in Steinbeck’s will, to Elaine.  Elaine, in turn, died in 2003.  She left those rights and other property to her family members, excluding Steinbeck’s children.  This included her husband’s summer home in upstate New York, which passed to her sister, Jean Boone.

The New York Times recently wrote an interesting article about the lawsuit by the children against Boone and others, which sought to reclaim the house and

Read more...
| Leave a comment