Tag Archives: lawsuits

Celebrity Legacies: Blurred Lines Surround Marvin Gaye Estate

There’s nothing like a hit song to keep heirs dancing down the road to the bank — even when that song wasn’t written, composed, or sung by the celebrity singer who died.

The heirs of Marvin Gaye hit it big with a judgment against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for copyright infringement based on their chart-topping song Blurred Lines … but will the victory stand up on appeal?  And what exactly does this mean for the Marvin Gaye Estate?

This is installment #13 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.

The Court Gets Involved With Marvin Gaye’s Estate

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Marvin Gaye’s life ended in tragedy. Then the courts got involved.

Posted by ReelzChannel on Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his own father in 1984, at only 44 years of age.  He left behind a golden Read more...

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Heirs of Superman Creators Battle Warner Bros and DC Comics

What would it be like if you had to fight Superman?  You may be thinking, “Superman is the hero, so why would he fight me?”  Work with us for a minute.  After all, when the concept of “Superman” was first developed, he was a villain and not a hero.

Imagine for a moment going mano-a-mano against the Man of Steel.  Just regular, mortal you against a brightly-garbed warrior who has super-strength, can fly, is faster than a speeding bullet, and has only one weakness.  It doesn’t sound like much fun.  It would seem rather hopeless … unless you had some Kryptonite in your back pocket.

The heirs of the two co-creators of the legendary comic book hero must feel just as hopeless at times in their fight over what they feel is “truth, justice and the American way.”  They have been battling the powerful media conglomerates, Warner Bros. and DC Comics, for many years in a series of (seemingly) never-ending lawsuits.  The heirs claim entitlement to full ownership of the Read more...

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Petition Filed Seeking to Reopen Barnes Art Case

The Friends of the Barnes Foundation group is mounting a last-ditch effort to try to reverse the fate of one of the most valuable private art collections ever assembled.  Dr. Albert Barnes

The late Dr. Albert Barnes gathered together unmatched works of post-impressionist art, including paintings by Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso, Monet and other masters.  It has not only been widely recognized as the greatest collection of its kind, but it’s been valued at more than 25 billion dollars.

Dr. Barnes created a very detailed Trust to maintain the collection in a private facility apart from the commercial art “elite,” which he despised.  Given the extraordinary value of the collection — both monetarily and artistically — perhaps it should be no surprise that the art elite of Philadelphia have done everything they can to get their hands on the collection.

In fact, Dr. Barnes’ Trust has been the subject of many years of litigation, which has  steadily chipped away at Dr. Barnes’ detailed instructions for how his art gallery was to be managed.  Read more...

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Dementia of Jazz Singer Etta James Sparks Family Fight

Famed R&B/Blues/Jazz singer Etta James, a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member whose biggest hit was At Last, now suffers from advanced dementia (likely Alzheimer’s disease) and leukemia.  According to her doctor, she can’t sign her own name and needs help even with basic life functions like eating, dressing and hygiene.  Etta is only 72 years old.  Etta-james

To make matters worse, her mental incapacity has sparked a family squabble that has led to a lawsuit.  Her husband of 41 years, Artis Mills, filed a court proceeding to take control of about one million dollars of bank accounts in Etta’s sole name.  Mills says he needs to money to pay for her care and keep her at home, rather than in a nursing home.  In most states, this would be done through a conservatorship proceeding (called “guardianship of the estate” in some states).

Since California is a community-property state, and because Mills is the spouse, his lawyer instead opted to file a separate lawsuit which asks for Etta’s money

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Walt Disney heirs embroiled in ugly family feud

Walt Disney World is a great vacation spot and a wonderful way to spend the holidays.  We just returned from there with our three children.  So it’s ironic that we recently learned about a messy court fight involving two of Disney’s grandchildren and their share of the massive Disney fortune.  Disney

Disney passed in 1966 at the age of 65.  He left behind two daughters and 10 grandchildren.  One of his two daughters, Sharon Mae Disney, had married and then divorced a real estate developer named Bill Lund.  Lund was the man who located and helped select Orlando, Florida as the site for Disney World.  Sharon and Bill had twins, born in 1970, named Michelle and Brad.

Sharon created trusts to pass on her share of the Disney fortune to her three children (her other child was from a prior marriage).  Under the trusts, the twins were entitled to substantial distributions.

How substantial?  In additional to yearly distributions of around one million dollars, they can each receive larger amounts, every 5 Read more...

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New legal battle coming for Michael Jackson Estate

The Los Angeles Times had an interesting article this past weekend about the Michael Jackson Estate and a new legal hurdle it faces.  The King of Pop certainly didn’t do much to make it easy for his estate executors or his heirs.  This development could add new fuel to the fire between his family and the music executive and lawyer in charge of his estate and trust. Michael Jackson Trial and Heirs

As we’ve written extensively about before, Michael’s mother, Katherine Jackson was in a nasty fight with the executors over control of the estate last year.  That is, they were feuding until Katherine dropped the legal challenge and stepped aside.  In fact, according to the LA Times article, she now feels executors John Branca and John McClain are doing “a very good job”.

The problem is she believes that the cash allowance of $7,000 to $8,000 per month, which the pair gives her from the estate, is not enough.  While the estate also pays other expenses for her as well as Michael’s

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Ugo di Portanova Guardianship: Texas multimillionaire subject to massive guardian battles

Ugo di Portanova.  Quite a name . . . and quite a story.  The Houston Chronicle had an interesting feature today about this heir to a massive oil fortune.  Di Portanova has assets valued at more than $65 million (which he largely inherited).  So you’d assume he’d wield great power with all that money, right?  Sadly, it’s just the opposite. Di Portanova

Di Portanova has been declared legally incapacitated (at least in part) continuously since 1967.  After a long fight, he won the right to manage $1,000 per month, marry who he wants, and make a will.  But he lost his quest to end the guardianship, so he has almost no say in management of his own money or other important decisions in his life.

Diagnosed with schizophrenia, di Portanova, now age 74, has lost more than the right to make most of his financial and other decisions.  He has also lost many millions of dollars to exorbitant legal fees, guardian and trustee salaries, court costs, and related expenses.  The Chronicle reviewed

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Joe Jackson still shut out from Michael’s estate claims

Michael Jackson’s father, Joe Jackson, just won’t stop pursuing claims involving his late son’s estate, even though judges keep telling him to . . . [wait for it] . . . Beat It!   Joe Jackson
Joe Jackson’s efforts to have the administrators of the King of Pop’s estate removed in court have failed.  Here’s our last article discussing his failed attempts.  The probate judge ruled he didn’t have legal “standing” (meaning the right to bring the claim in court) to fight against the executors because he was not a beneficiary.  In other words, because he wouldn’t inherit anything, it wasn’t his right to complain about what the executors were doing.
Joe Jackson Files Lawsuit Video


So, of course, Joe appealed.  The Court of Appeals has recently upheld the ruling of the probate judge and agreed that Joe had no claim.  So, he’s most likely out of luck with that claim.
But, wait, he has more!  Or does he?  Joe had filed a claim seeking $500 million dollars against Dr. Conrad Murray, AEG, Read more...

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Dennis Hopper estate battle moving into high gear

It’s ironic that the estate of the actor made famous through the movie Easy Rider is proving to be anything but an easy ride.  On one side sits Dennis Hopper’s fifth wife, Victoria Duffy-Hopper.  On the other sit his trustees and children, spearheaded by daughter Marin Hopper.  Marin is the oldest daughter and is five years older than her “step-mother”.  Think there’s some bad blood there?  Dennis Hopper estate

You bet there is.  Before Hopper died, he filed for divorce.  His wife claimed this move was driven by his children in an effort to cut her out of his estate plan.  According to the couple’s prenuptial agreement, if they were divorced or no longer living together, then she would not inherit 25% of his estate and life insurance worth $250,000.

At first, it was reported that Duffy-Hopper would argue that they were still living together because the judge in their divorce case permitted her to remain on the same property with him, but in separate houses.  That was clearly an uphill battle. 

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It’s baaaack … The Anna Nicole Smith Case

It has to rank as one of the craziest, lengthiest and most-watched probate litigation court cases of all time.  It officially started as Vicki Lynn Marshall (a/k/a Anna Nicole Smith) vs. E. Pierce Marshall (son and sole beneficiary of the late oil tycoon, J. Howard Marshall).  Anna-Nicole-Smith-Estate-Trial-and-Heirs

Originally, the Smith team won an $88 million against her “step-son”, Pierce, but that victory was taken away by the Court of Appeals, which ended the fight.  That is, it was over until the United States Supreme Court ruled in Smith’s favor and reinstated the case.

Then Pierce died, followed by Anna Nicole Smith.  But, just because they both passed away doesn’t mean the fighting stopped!  Their two estates have continued to battle over the billions left behind by Smith’s 90-year-old husband, 15 years after he died.

Then, this past March, the Court of Appeals again threw out the case (on a different legal ground).  Once again Smith’s estate, with the infamous Howard K. Stern at the helm, asked the Supreme Court to step Read more...

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