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August 2010 Archives

Wallace Bock To Be Investigated By Manhattan DA

Wallace Bock, a NY estate attorney for the reclusive heiress Huguette Clark, is facing an investigation over possible claims of mismanagement of Ms. Clark's money. The Gothamist reports that the Manhattan District Attorney's office recently questioned Wallace Bock's paralegal about a $10,000 dollhouse that Huguette Clark bought for Wallace Bock's granddaughter. There are also questions about an alleged $1.5 million in cash that Ms. Clark gifted to Mr. Bock for a bomb shelter in Israel in a community where Bock's daughter and grandchildren live.

The New York Post reports that Wallace Bock's colleagues were bemused by the generosity of the heiress. One year at the law firm's holiday party, his former paralegal Cynthia Garcia claims that he was given a mock will drawn up to look like the heiress' will naming him as a major beneficiary to the estate. Garcia claims that even after he realized it was a fake will, he kept it. Garcia alleges that after years of no contact, Bock recently called her to ask her not to talk about his dealings with Huguette Clark.

Estate Attorney Bernard Grenrood Pleads Guilty To Swindling Clients

A Louisiana estate planning lawyer has pleaded guilty to six counts of theft in excess of $500 of funds belonging to his former clients. According to the New Star, Bernard Grenrood was ordered to five years probation and ordered to pay a total restitution of $106,200 to the clients that he stole from.

One such client's family claims that Grenrood possessed a decedent's life insurance checks which were written out to the decedent's children and grandchildren. He allegedly took those checks, wrote them out for himself, and transferred close to $32,000 from the decedent's checking account to his own trust account. The family claims that when they asked Grenrood where the checks were, he told them that they were stolen.

2010 Gift Tax Really Is A Gift To Save On Taxes

The New York Times reports that while most individuals are fretting over the estate tax lapse in 2010, they should really be taking advantage of the 2010 gift tax rates. Why is that? At 35 percent, a NY estate attorney would tell you that the 2010 gift tax rate is the lowest that it has been since the 1930s. While we have covered this topic before, it is important to bear in mind that the 2010 gift tax can save individuals on taxes. Steve Kunkel, director of taxes at CBIZ MHM told the New York Times: "People are so focused on the estate tax that they're not paying attention to this. People are looking beyond 2010, and in doing so they're going to miss some significant savings this year."

Where There's A Will, There's A Way: 5 Questions To Ask About Wills

We often assume that we are going to live forever, but what happens when we pass away eventually? Will we have our estate plan in order? The New York Times Bucks Blog claims that most Americans tend to put off writing a will or planning their estates. While most Americans don't want to think about estate planning, if you actually plan ahead it's not only better for you, but it's better for your heirs as well.

Here are the 5 questions that the New York Times says that you need to ask a New York estate planning lawyer:

MSNBC Reports Spur An Investigation On The Welfare Of Huguette Clark

The mysterious heiress Huguette Clark has not only captured the attention of many a NY estate attorney, but also the attention of regular Americans across the country.

MSNBC.com readers contacted New York officials in order to get them to check on the welfare of reclusive heiress Huguette Clark. The welfare check on Huguette Clark will also be accompanied with a criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney about how her finances are handled. After reading reports from MSNBC.com about the previous dealings of attorney Wallace "Wally" Bock and accountant Irving Kamsler, 140 readers felt compelled to contact Adult Protective Services.

Inheritance Fight In Virginia Ends In Violence

NBC reports that Virginia State Police had to respond to a violent shootout in Louisa County over an inheritance fight this past Sunday. Police state that around 2:00p.m., they were called to a home on Twigg Drive for a family dispute. When police arrived, the issue was resolved and the police left the home. However, as a NY estate attorney can attest, when it comes to inheritance, sometimes disputes can't be easily settled.

Police say that over the course of the afternoon, tensions grew over the inheritance fight. At approximately 5:00 p.m., Charles Sponaugle Sr. started shooting his family with a .22 caliber target pistol. He shot and killed his son Charles Steadman, and his nephew Mark Cooper Sponaugle. He also shot and injured his sister, brother in law and two other nephews.

Frances Bean Cobain Inherits Millions From Trust

Frances Bean Cobain, the child of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, turned 18 years old on August 18. NBC LA reports that on her birthday, Frances Bean stands to inherit millions of dollars from a trust fund set up for her three years after her father's suicide in 1994. She is the sole beneficiary of this trust fund.

As a NY estate attorney would tell clients, a trust fund is typically set up for minors in order to protect their inheritance from creditors or future spouses.

Life Insurance Notes Get Agents Into Hot Water

The Wall Street Journal reports that agents trying to sell what is known as life insurance notes are getting into legal trouble. Life insurance notes or funds were introduced by firms who would buy life insurance policies from individuals, pay the premiums, and then pool them together with other policies. These were then sold as notes or funds to investors. Investors would get paid off when the insured individual died. In essence, their death benefits become an investor's payoff.

The controversial product never took off because of the macabre nature of it. Regulators didn't like the product and legislators felt it went against public policy because it allowed investors to profit from death.

Family Of Monica Beresford-Redman Claims Will Is Forged

CBS reports that the family of slain Monica Beresford-Redman wants to have the signature on her will tested because they believe it is a forged signature. According to TMZ, Monica Beresford-Redman has two wills. One will was dated in 2004 and indicated her wishes to give custody of her two children to her sister. Another will that is dated in 2008 offers custody to the godfather of one of the children.

Monica Beresford-Redman's sisters have filed request in L.A. Superior Court to allow them to have a handwriting expert analyze the signatures and verify which will has her signature. The sisters have been denied requests for visitation rights of the children because Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff said it was not good for the children to be shuffled back and forth. The children are currently under the temporary guardianship of their paternal grandparents.

Monica Beresford-Redman was found dead in a sewer in Cancun in April. Her husband, former "Survivor" producer Bruce Beresford-Redman, is suspected of murdering his wife at Moon Place Hotel. Mexican officials have requested extradition of the man since he fled back to Los Angeles.

Who Manages The Estate Of Huguette Clark?

In the third part of a series of articles about the reclusive heiress Huguette Clark, MSNBC details the accountant and attorney behind the management of Huguette Clark's estate. We have written about how the heiress was wary of family members and outsiders trying to claim a stake in her estate, but what about the advisers closest to her?

When MSNBC interviewed her attorney Wallace "Wally" Bock, he only said that Ms. Clark was a remarkable beauty in her heyday, she was well and spoke to him regularly via telephone, and that her mind is intact. He refused to send her a request for an interview and threatened legal action if MSNBC reported on his client.

Michael Jackson Estate Prevails Over Lawsuit

In news that would catch the eye of any NY estate attorney, the Associated Press reports that U.S. District Judge Harold Baer Jr. has granted a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought forth by concert promoter AllGood Entertainment Inc. The promoter sued Michael Jackson for $40 million on June 10, 2009 because of a failed reunion concert. The lawsuit claimed that Michael Jackson and his manager broke a contract for a Jackson reunion concert.

The company then filed a creditor's claim with the Michael Jackson estate which alleged that the potential value of the lawsuit could have been at least $300 million.

Life Insurance and Death Benefits Payouts

It seems that consumers have lots of different options when it comes to how life insurance companies pay their death benefits. The Wall Street Journal has covered different questions that may crop up for anyone who is considering purchasing a life insurance policy. While some of these questions can be answered with the help of a NY estate attorney, it is also helpful for consumers to do their homework too.

Experts worry that consumers are not aware of their options when it comes to death benefits payouts. Rather than mailing out a lump sum check, insurance companies have taken to sending out "checkbooks" for withdrawals. A beneficiary of the proceeds can withdraw all or a portion of the amount.

Huguette Clark: Alone With No Heirs?

We have written about the elusive copper heiress before on this blog, but it seems that MSNBC has uncovered more information about the legal dealings of Huguette Clark. It seems that the media outlet was turned away from two of the caretakers by her estates in Santa Barbara and Connecticut because they were instructed to do so by her attorney Wallace "Wally" Bock.

While it is easy for individuals with large estates to be wary of outside influences, a NY estate attorney can also tell you that undue influence can be exerted by individuals that are close as well. In fact, caretakers who receive a major portion of estates are often challenged with charges of undue influence by family members. However, the beauty of estate planning is that it is up to the person to decide how to distribute their wealth upon death with the help of a New York estate planning lawyer.

Tax Free Gifts Can Ensure Estates Are Not Hit Hard By Estate Tax

We all know that the estate tax is coming back soon, but what can smart New Yorkers do about it? Well, they can start by calling a NY estate attorney and mapping out ways that their estate plan can cleverly dodge the estate tax. A New York estate planning lawyer knows all sorts of ways to get around the estate tax with estate planning tools. In fact, one such estate planning tool was recently touted by Reuters. Reuters reports that estate planning experts are encouraging individuals to give away assets to their heirs in the form of tax free gifts

Bill Fleming, a financial planner for PricewaterhouseCoopers told Reuters, "This is a golden era for shifting estates and giving assets away. If you have an estate plan, keep going: Uncle Sam soon will be back in your pocket." This means that you can expect your NY estate attorney to advise you to whittle down your assets by giving tax free gifts, intra-family loans, and creating trusts.

Life Insurance Regulators Warn Consumers About Payment Of Benefits

Bloomberg reports that in an effort to improve the disclosure of life insurance benefits payment options, state insurance regulators are now issuing consumer alerts about retention of funds versus the payment of a lump sum to beneficiaries.

In an alert sent out by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the alert warned consumers that selecting a different pay out method could yield a higher rate of interest. The alert read, "You may be able to earn a higher rate of interest on the life insurance proceeds if you select a different payout option. While the documents you receive might look like a checkbook, it might actually be drafts, which are similar to checks, but different in some ways."

Joe Jackson Claims That He Is Disrespected By Probate Judge

In yet another celebrity estate story that illustrates the importance of estate planning, we have more developments in the Michael Jackson estate. Savvy New Yorkers should call a NY estate attorney in order to ensure that their own estate does not turn into a family feud. It seems that the Michael Jackson estate is turning into a major feud between the estate executors and Michael Jackson's father Joe Jackson.

TMZ reports that Joe Jackson feels that the probate judge presiding over Michael Jackson's probate case has not treated him with "dignity and worth." Joe Jackson's attorney, Brian Oxman has filed papers with a California appeals court that states that the probate judge erred in his dismissal of Joe Jackson's objections to executors John Branca and John McClain. The probate judge had ruled that Joe Jackson did not have the standing to object to the appointment of the executors of the estate since he was intentionally excluded as a beneficiary in the estate.

Accusations Of Undue Influence In The Christ Kamberos Estate

ABC News reports that Christi Kamberos Mathews, daughter of Treasure Island Foods co-founder Christ Kamberos, has filed a lawsuit in Chicago's Cook County Circuit Court that accuses her step mother Maria Kamberos of exerting undue influence on Christ Kamberos in an effort to collect more inheritance. While this is a case that comes out of the Windy City, a NY estate attorney can tell you that cases of undue influence crop up often; especially in larger estates. In fact, it is estimated that Christ Kamberos estate is worth "in excess of several million dollars."

Boston Man Cons Elderly Widower Out Of His Estate

We have covered how vulnerable some elderly patients can get to outside undue influence on this blog before, but a New York estate planning lawyer can tell you that it happens more often than people realize. The Boston Herald reports that Richard Souza scammed an elderly man out of his whole estate and then tried to hide the transactions.

Richard Souza was arrested on Thursday after an investigation was conducted by the Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS. Federal authorities allege that Souza befriended the widower by offering to repair his roof and then scammed the elderly man (known as "Larry" in court documents) from everything he owned and left him in debt.

Joan Fleming's Estate Plan Gets Complicated Out In Long Island

We all know that individuals come up with an estate plan in order to ensure that life is easier for their loved ones. But what if it makes life more complicated for you and your heirs? The New York Post reports that Joan Fleming, a resident of Bay Shore out on Long Island found out that her estate plan complicates the state of affairs for her son, Michael Fleming's bankruptcy.

Now you are probably wondering how the bankruptcy of one of the heirs of an estate would be complicated by an estate plan right? Well in a story that would confuse even a NY estate attorney, it turns out that Michael Fleming was bequeathed half of his mother's $300,000 ranch style house.

Estate Attorney Arrested In Forged Will Case

In a surprising turn of events, a New York estate planning lawyer in Albany was arrested by New York state police in a case that involved a forged will. CBS Albany reports that John Dalton from Old Military Road in Albany was arrested on April 19 on charges of forgery and grand larceny after he took ownership of his late mother's home with a forged will. John Dalton brought forth a new will with his mother's signature that named Dalton as the sole beneficiary of the estate. The will raised the suspicions of relatives because it was dated three days before the woman's death and relatives claim that she was not physically or mentally capable in the last days of her life.

Further investigations by authorities revealed that the will was forged and that the attorney who notarized the documents did not witness the mother signing any documents. In the felony criminal case involving John Dalton, Dalton has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Johnny Carson's Estate Donation To Charity Comes To Light

One of the most legendary late night comedians was also a person with a generous heart. The Huffington Post reports that Johnny Carson's estate has given a posthumous donation to charity worth about $156 million. Johnny Carson, who passed away in 2005, ensured that the $156 million would be transferred from his estate to his foundation. The John W. Carson Foundation supports a variety of different nonprofit organizations. Some of the organizations that have benefitted from the donation are the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Free Clinic and Planned Parenthood, and a variety of charities in Nebraska. Nebraska was the star's home state.

While the charitable donation was never announced publicly by Johnny Carson, The Smoking Gun managed to locate tax returns filed by the John W. Carson Foundation . The amount given to the Foundation was through $35.2 million in cash as well as an additional $121.2 million in securities and royalty rights.

Narcy Novack Pleads Not Guilty To Husband Ben Novak's Murder

The wife of hotel heir Ben Novack pled not guilty to charges accusing her of allegedly bludgeoning her husband to death in a hotel room in order to collect inheritance money. However, it seems that the plot thickens. The New York Post reports that not only did Narcy Novack allegedly map out the murders of her mother in law and her husband, but she was planning to kill a witness in the trial of Ben Novack's death. Prosecutor Elliott Jacobson told the presiding U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Davison: "There was also a plot to kill another witness in the case." This new allegation was added as part of the reason why the judge should keep Narcy Novack in jail until the trial.

New York Skier Edward Fitzgerald's Estate Sues Idaho Rescuers

CBS Denver reports that the family of a New York skier from Forest Hills has filed a wrongful death lawsuit for $5 million against Teton County Sheriff's Department in Idaho, Teton County, Idaho Search and Rescue, and others. Skier Edward J. Fitzgerald was skiing outside the perimeter of a western Wyoming resort when he got lost. He was able to make contact with a sheriff dispatcher using a cell phone, but the wrongful death lawsuit contends that officials bungled the rescue and failed to communicate with rescuers. As a result, Fitzgerald died of hypothermia.

The family also claims that the Grand Targhee Resort boundaries were not clearly marked. The lawsuit claims that after Fitzgerald called 911 at both 7:37 p.m. and at 7:43 p.m., Idaho authorities were given permission to enter Wyoming to find the lost skier. However, the lawsuit documents say that Idaho officials failed to tell Wyoming rescuers that he was close to a stream or that his cell phone was running out of battery life.

Anna Nicole Smith Estate Reminds Us All About Estate Planning

CNBC outlines how the Anna Nicole Smith estate is a cautionary tale for everyone to take estate planning seriously. We have covered the estate of Anna Nicole Smith before on this blog when Larry Birkhead held an auction of her personal items for the benefit of their daughter Dannielynn. It seems to be a common problem. People assume that their loved ones are prepared with estate planning documents.

If you ask a NY estate attorney, he or she will probably tell you that this may not be the case. In fact, when Anna Nicole Smith's husband Mr. J. Howard Marshall passed away, he failed to include Ms. Smith in his will. As a result, the bulk of his estate went to his son instead of Anna Nicole Smith. While Anna Nicole Smith was still alive, she claimed that her late husband had verbally promised half of his estate to her. However, with no will in place to back up those claims, she was left with nothing.

It does bring up a few important points:

Darla Lexington Battles Estate of John O'Quinn

The battle between Darla Lexington and the estate of John O'Quinn is getting bigger. Dallas News reports that the long time companion of John O'Quinn claims that the cars that the estate wants to auction off were gifts to her. Last week, we covered how Darla Lexington attempted to seek an injunction last Friday from auctioning off three classic Corvettes from his estate. That request for an injunction was denied by Judge Mike Wood in Harris County probate court.

This particular legal battle marks the first time that Darla Lexington has fought with the estate since the late famed lawyer passed away in a car crash in 2009. His will stated that he left the entirety of his estate to a foundation. He did not leave Darla Lexington anything in his estate. The will was dated from 2008. She testified that the estate refused to recognize the role she played in John O'Quinn's life: "They've treated me like I never knew John O'Quinn," she testified. She calls the late lawyer her "husband, partner and lover."

Darla Lexington Fights Car Auction By Estate of John O'Quinn

A battle over an estate is brewing in the Lone Star state in the city of Houston. ABC News reports that Darla Lexington, the longtime companion of the late attorney John O'Quinn, is fighting his estate's decision to sell five of the attorney's cars in an auction in Pebble Beach, CA. John O'Quinn passed away in a car crash last year in Allen Parkway.

While Darla Lexington is also trying to make claims that she should be treated as his common law wife, the hearing held today will solely determine whether or not the estate can proceed with the auction. The judge at the hearing must decide whether there is a probable right to those cars as a gift by Ms. Lexington for the impending trial.

Shannon Price Set To Fight Estate's Sale Of Home

It seems there is a plot twist in the Gary Coleman estate saga. We have covered before that Gary Coleman's estate administrator was planning to sell the late actor's Utah home in order to pay off debts, but his ex-wife Shannon Price is planning to fight the estate sale. The Toronto Sun reports that Shannon Price is angry over the plans to sell the Utah home because it was their marital home.

She is currently in an estate battle with the estate because she claims that even though the couple had divorced in 2008, she says that they continued to live and act like they were a married couple. Her representative Sheila Erickson says that Shannon Price will "do everything possible to this in court. Gary would want Shannon in that house. It was their house together."

Gary Coleman's Estate Plans To Sell Utah House

TMZ reports that Gary Coleman's estate administrator, Robert Jeffs, intends to sell his Santaquin, UT home. Robert Jeffs says that the home is in major need of renovations. He filed a motion requesting a judge to allow him to list and sell the home and a lot that is located next to the home for approximately $324,000. He is also asking for permission to remove the late actor's possessions from the home so that he can get the house set up for potential buyers to view the property. Jeffs said: "The belongings in the house are disorganized and in disarray."

The home is described as being in "poor/distressed condition." A realtor has assessed that it will take an additional $7,500 in order to make repairs that are necessary.

DJ AM's Estate Sued By Neighbor Isaac Toveg

There seems to a lot of interesting news for a New York estate planning lawyer  to brush up on! Another news story fresh from the Golden State has hit the airwaves. This time, DJ AM's estate has been served with a lawsuit from neighbor Isaac Toveg. The Toronto Sun reports that neighbor Isaac Toveg has sued DJ AM's estate over a possible broken sewage pipe that he claims made him ill. The lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, claims that DJ AM's estate ignored his complaints of a "gaseous foul odour and/or smell" coming from the late star's home.

Isaac Toveg claims that as a result from the stench, he has had to "experience problems in breathing and stomach ailments." He alleges that whenever he went outside of his home, he felt "severely ill." Isaac Toveg now claims that he has been diagnosed with Helicobacter pylori; a bacteria which is known to cause ulcers or inflammation in the stomach.

Dennis Hopper's Wife Told To Vacate The Family Compound

In news that will catch the eye of any NY estate attorney even though it's an out of state issue, TMZ reports that the administrators of the Dennis Hopper trust want to sell his family compound in Venice, CA. The only problem with this plan is that Dennis Hopper's wife, Victoria Duffy-Hopper refuses to move out of the multimillion dollar home. As a result, the Dennis Hopper trust administrators have filed a petition in order to regain possession of the property.

The trust administrators claim that Dennis Hopper's wife is "wrongfully possessing and withholding...control" of the property. The estimated value of the family compound is over $6 million. The trust administrators also claim that they had offered Victoria Duffy-Hopper a different property that she co-owns with the trust in Brentwood. However even with the offer, she has refused to vacate the family compound in Venice, CA.

Preparing Your Parents For The Estate Tax Could Save Money

U.S. News & World Report writes of how important it is for adult children to broach the topic of estate planning with their parents  because it could help everyone save money with the estate tax. We all know that after 2010, that the federal estate tax will be coming back from the dead. However, with the help of a NY estate attorney, many families can plan ahead and map out their estates without too much pain from taxes.

A lot of children worry that their parents will view them as inheritance hungry if they mention the topic and a lot of older Americans don't want to be reminded of death. However, if families get together and talk it out with the guidance of a New York estate planning lawyer, they will find that it can be a huge source of relief. It will also guarantee that there will be less room for family conflict or surprises.

Here are some ways that you can help break the ice with your own parents about estate planning:

Heiress Huguette Clark Abandons Estates For Hospital

The New York Daily News reports that heiress Huguette Clark has given up her properties in Manhattan, Connecticut, and California for a small modest room in an undisclosed hospital in New York City. While she is a very private lady, it seems that media outlets want to know what she is planning to do with her vast amounts of wealth. MSNBC reports that Ms. Clark handles all of her matters with NY estate attorney Mr. Wallace Bock, but that she has no apparent heirs. Her nephews claim that they are unaware of her estate planning measures.

She initially lived a life in the public eye; where she courted the wealthiest playboys of the time. However that all changed when she had to suffer her mother's death.

All In the Family? A Family Limited Partnership Helps Dodge Estate Tax

While we have written extensively about how wealthy (or even some middle class) families are dreading the return of the estate tax, we have only written of a few tools up a clever NY estate attorney's sleeve in order to mitigate the tax. One of the tools that a New York estate planning lawyer can use was mentioned over the weekend by the New York Times' writer Paul Sullivan. Sullivan writes of how a family can avoid high estate tax bill by using something known as a family limited partnership.

According to Investing Answers, a family limited partnership is a legal entity that uses a family member's "interests" instead of "shares." It is basically a limited partnership with members who are all part of the same family. While this may seem like a lesson in business structures, a New York estate planning lawyer can tell you exactly why a family limited partnership would make sense for a large estate.