Category Archives: Wills

Trouble Brewing Over George Michael Estate Between Family And Former Lover

When British pop star George Michael, 53, whose full name was Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, died on Christmas Day, 2016, he was discovered by his lover, Fadi Fawaz.  Tensions around George Michael’s estate have been building between Fawaz and Michael’s surviving family members, which include his two sisters and his father, ever since that day. 

According to reports from England, Michael’s family members want nothing to do with Fawaz, to the point that he is not even welcome at the funeral.  After months of delays before Michael’s body was released, during which it was determined he died of natural causes related to a heart condition, Michael’s sisters are planning a small, private ceremony at a 30-seat chapel.

George Michael Died Of Natural Causes

Fawaz has complained that the family left him out of funeral plans and felt that he was being blamed for George Michael’s death, until the final determination of how he died was made public. George Michael’s cousin said it was Fawaz who snubbed the family, not the other Read more...

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Let’s Go Crazy: Prince Estate Enters New Fight Over Who Will Inherit His Millions

So much trouble caused by such a simple concept.  When you create a will, you decide who receives your assets after you die.  If you don’t, the laws of the state you live in determine it.  What happens when those laws aren’t too clear?  Chaos.  And the Prince estate is experiencing it in full force.  Prince estate

Maybe it’s fitting for the estate of the man who sang, “Let’s Go Crazy.”

Prince’s estate — reported to be worth as much as $300 million dollars before taxes — is tied up in the early stages of a long battle over who really are his heirs.  Still?  Didn’t the judge already resolve that months ago?

Originally, it appeared so.  Dozens of people came forward claiming to be Prince’s son, daughter, or other relative.  The DNA did not support them, and the judge denied their claims.  He determined that Prince’s full sister and five half-siblings all qualified as heirs.  He ordered the other two, a reported niece and grand-niece, to undergo DNA testing as well. 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 Read more...

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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.

David

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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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Celebrity Legacies: James Dean Estate Has A Cause

James Dean was the iconic rebel without a cause.  The James Dean Estate, on the other hand, has been driven by a cause — maximizing the value of his image and likeness.  But was it taken too far when his heirs sued Twitter?  James Dean

This is installment #16 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.

Perhaps no Hollywood legend has lasted so long, and left such an impact, as James Dean.  After dying in a tragic car crash at age 24, in 1955, Dean continued to appear among the top of highest earning deceased celebrities year after year, including being in the top ten as recently as 2012, when his estate earned about five million dollars.  Not bad for actor who only starred in three major films.

James Dean died without a will, leaving his estate and financial legacy to his father Read more...

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