September is almost here, which means it’s time to look back at the past month’s developments in elder law. For the August review:
August Review: Celeb Estates
There’s more celebrity estates news than we’ve can ever recall seeing in a single month. We already wrote about Anne Heche’s tragic death, and here are more celeb estates making headlines this month.
Two of Paul Newman’s kids have had it. One of them has complained to the media about the Newman’s Own Foundation before. Now a lawsuit alleges that the Foundation wrongfully decreased mandatory distributions to entities they control. The Foundation says the lawsuit has no merit.
The family of Edie McClurg, who starred in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, is in an interesting legal tussle with her male “friend.” Edie has dementia, and her cousin is her guardian and conservator. It appears that she is asking the court to let her kick Edie’s 76-year-old live-in companion to the curb.
There’s apparently controversy over the casting Cuban actress Ana de Armas of as Marilyn Monroe in Netflix’s movie Blonde. Critics who’ve seen an early trailer say Armas’s Spanish accent is a distraction. But Monroe’s estate is 100% in support, telling Variety: “Any actor that steps into that role knows they have big shoes to fill. Based on the trailer alone, it looks like Ana was a great casting choice as she captures Marilyn’s glamour, humanity and vulnerability. We can’t wait to see the film in its entirety!” It premieres on Netflix Sept. 28.
After six years, the Prince estate has been settled. We think that’s pretty quick considering there was no will, six heirs, and many issues to resolve. The Court approved a plan of distribution. It includes $6 million in cash and music rights to be divided among an entity controlled by three heirs and another Primary Wave, an entity that purchased shares from the three other heirs. One point of interest: Comerica, which is administering the estate, is retaining $3 million to wrap up the estate. One dispute resolved before the deal: The maker of Prince’s famous cloud guitar gets to keep making them.
Tupac Shakur’s estate is wrangling over artwork from the cover of his 1996 album. The artist says it’s his, and it was auctioned, along with an NFT of it, for $212,500. The estate is still trying to recover it.
Selena died in 1995, but that can’t stop the music. Her estate announced that a new album, Moonchild Mixes, is coming out at the end of the month. It reportedly includes digitally altered vocals that Selena recorded as a teenager. It’s the twenty-fourth posthumous Selena album.
Here’s your chance to collect an item owned by Joan Didion and her late husband, John Gregory Dunne. Stair Galleries is hosting the “An American Icon: Property From the Collection of Joan Didion.” Among items up for grabs: fine art, home decor, furniture, and books. An auction catalog is due October 31, a gallery exhibition in Hudson, New York following on November 4, and the auction itself November 16. Proceeds will be donated to yet-to-be-announced charities.
Godfather author Mario Puzio’s estate has signed on with talent agency APA. APA aims to sell Puzio works for movies and streaming miniseries. The author’s son, Tony told the Hollywood Reporter: “Mario Puzo created legendary characters and stories, and there is more to mine from his incredible novels that, in the right hands, will fascinate audiences. APA has a great track record of partnering with talent and getting stories on screen, and we’re excited for this next chapter of my father’s work.”
What happens when art is discovered and promoted for decades by someone who has no right to it and it turns out to have value? In the case of Henry Darger, a lawsuit might help decide. Darger’s heirs – distant relatives – and his former landlords are on opposite sides. The Lerners were Darger’s landlords from the ‘50s till his death in 1973 and have promoted his work ever since. The heirs now have obtained legal authority to administer the estate, and they’re trying to claw the art back, along with profits and damages.
Estate Planning & Taxes
We’re lawyers, so we think that everyone should hire an attorney to create an estate plan, but this piece outlines three good reasons: help prevent mistakes, help create a smarter plan, and help choose an appropriate fiduciary.
That plan might include a pot trust (which might be “the fairest trust structure of them all”) or a grantor trust (here’s how those work) or or leaving assets to a charity.
That plan also might include a discussion of how to divide up assets among heirs – and keep them happy. This article gives some good tips. One of them is to communicate, not blab about your plan, but find out what your loved ones care about and consider it. Our favorite part of the article, though, is a comment. One reader shared his creative approach to gifting during lifetime: “Last year we had the most fun Christmas ever. We prepared a “Deal or No Deal” board for each of our three kids. Top prize was $30k for each. After much anxiety, nervousness, indecision and laughter they each ended the game with a nice prize. But then we wrote them checks for the top prize with the caveat that each should do something they have wanted to do for awhile. One built an outdoor kitchen/entertainment area, another remodeled their outdated master bath bath….and the third built his own RV. It was fun to see it all happen rather than leave them the money when we die!”
President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act left his ambitious plans to alter the estate tax landscape untouched.
In case you wondered whether writing deathbed checks will remove assets from an estate, a new tax court decision says, “It depends.”
August Review: Miscellany
Are you interested in becoming an estate planning attorney? Here’s how.
When an estate is administered via the probate process, there are always two sets of players: the executor (called personal representative in Arizona) and the beneficiaries. Being an executor is optional, and this piece runs down the requirements and challenges. It’s good to read it before you sign up. Being a beneficiary also is optional, though few decide to decline an inheritance. This story is a decent overview (“The probate process can be opaque: Prepare to be frustrated”), though many of the specifics don’t apply in every jurisdiction.
We all want to preserve our cognition as we age. New research indicates that prolonged loneliness is an important risk factor; certain everyday activities can reduce risk; and although sedentary behavior is a risk, what you do while you are sitting matters.
Research shows that dogs’ cognition declines as they age, too. In some cases, they can suffer from canine cognitive dysfunction, or CCD. Symptoms include sleep disruption, loss of spatial awareness, and unusual social behaviors. Researchers say that it appears that, at a certain point, cognitive decline becomes inevitable: “We find once they get up to 15, we have yet to see a dog that is normal.”