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Volume Ten • Number Two • February 2014


Is There an Oscar for Best Estate Planning? & Is Justin Bieber a Grinch?


Is There an Oscar for Best Estate Planning?

Is There an Oscar for Best Estate Planning?

    No, unfortunately there isnít. But that doesnít mean you canít get award-winning advice and a sound strategy in place now by speaking with a star attorney in the estate planning world

Estate Follies

    Did you know Best Actor Winner Marlon Brando was regarded as one of the greatest actors ever on the Silver Screen? However, his promise to give his housekeeper a home and continued employment after he died didnít hold up legally. There was nothing in writing to prove the Godfather star made an offer that couldnít be refused.
    Likewise, Rat Packer and (original) Oceanís Eleven star, Sammy Davis, Jr., was known as a kind and generous person. In fact, Sammy made numerous gifts and bequests in his will to friends and family members. But Sammy failed to manage his finances as well as he did his singing and dancing career Ė the Candy Man left an estate with heavy debt. All of those thoughtful gifts didnít go to those he intended. Instead, his assets went to creditors to pay off the bills he couldnít take with him to the Big Showroom in the Sky.

No "Amateur Hour"

    Many who watch Hollywoodís biggest names like to emulate their favorite actors. Some may think George Clooney is cool? Perhaps they buy a jacket just like his or a necklace like the one Gwyneth Paltrow wears down the red carpet on Oscar Night. It can be fun to copy the celebrities when it comes to fashion, but donít try to emulate them when it comes to estate planning. Like starring in a Spielberg film, estate planning should be left to the professionals. No one reads a how-to book on acting and then jumps into the leading role of a Hollywood blockbuster. The same is true when considering all of your assets and structuring a wealth transfer strategy that takes into account your wishes, as well as the tax and other legal ramifications. Estate planning is a craft just like acting; a craft that takes study, hard work and talent to "nail it."
    Heath Ledger, a posthumous Oscar winner as Batmanís nemesis, the Joker in The Dark Knight, died at age 28. He was wise enough to have a will, but it was never updated to reflect the birth of his daughter, Matilda Rose. Ledgerís will left everything to his mother, father and sister. This raised concerns of other family members about the ability of the senior Ledger to properly provide for the little girl. Ledgerís father promised he would, and so far there has been no fighting in the courts.

Mobsters and Jokers

     The will of the late James Gandolfini, movie and TV star who was best known for his role as Tony Soprano, leaves numerous questions. Gandolfini, who passed away just a few months ago, had one son (now 14) from his first marriage, and a one-year-old daughter with his second wife, to whom he was married when he died. Right after his daughter was born last year, Gandolfini drafted a will that left a home in Italy in trust for his children; a trust for his son with the option to buy his New York condo; and split the remaining estate (less other gifts) among his widow, daughter and two sisters. His daughterís 20% share of the estate is in a trust that named his wife, one of his sisters and a lawyer as the trustees. This is a common situation of a blended family with ex-spouses and half-siblings that raises several potential problems. Although it appears the will is to be properly probated, Gandolfini created some potential landmines as the children get older. First, he treated his children differently in the will. This can cause hard feelings and lawsuits. Second, he left property for the children to share, which means there will be expenses to maintain and an unequal footing for a toddler versus a young adult. Finally, he left large sums of money for his children to be disbursed at the young age of 21. Time will tell how the children will act and if they will use their fatherís estate wisely.
    You shouldnít ad lib when it comes to planning your estate for the well-being of your family and loved ones. Estate planning preparation is important and should be done now (Remember, Heath Ledger died at 28.) Consult a "pro" to help you nail your part.

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