Monday, April 27, 2009

The Circle will be Broken - Feud over de Young Art Continues

NY Times brief reports the 400-piece Jolika collection of New Guinea Art at the de Young Museum in San Francisco will be broken up to resolve the debt arising from the donor family's inheritance dispute. This is a story we've followed here and here. Seven pieces will be sold at auction in Paris on June 17th by Sotheby's and the City of San Francisco will allow an addition 76 works to be sold.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dogs Get the Short Stick in Helmsley Charitable Trust Distributions

The trustees for Leona Helmsley's estate said Tuesday they have started spreading her estimated $5 billion fortune by awarding $136 million in grants to charitable causes; a mere $1million is going to the dogs.

Helmsley, who died in 2007 at age 87, had ordered in a 2004 revision to the mission statement for the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust that its money go to "purposes related to the provision of care for dogs," along with other charities.

A Manhattan judge ruled in February that the money was not limited to man's best friend, allowing it to be spread among dozens of charities for sex abuse victims, Jewish day school students, the homeless and medical research.

$40 Million for the Center for Digestive Diseases at NY Presbyterian Hospital

Other Winners

Center for the bowel disease program at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
A charity that provides food in Souther Africa
Cornell's School of Hotel Administration

Canine causes will split $1 million 10 ways among charities that provide, among other things, training for seeing-eye dogs, dogs for the deaf, and bomb sniffers.

The Art of the Inheritance Dispute - Putting it on the block edition

New development in an inheritance dispute we commented on here. The of the dispute is the Papua New Guinea art that de Young Trustee John Friede, promised his prized collection to the de Young Memorial Museum but at the same time put it up as collateral in a legal settlement over his mother's estate with his two brothers.

Now the SF Chronicle reports that the Museum is preparing to sell 76 pieces of the 400 piece collection it has on display.

John Friede's two brothers contend they have the right to seize the collection and sell up to $20 million worth of its art after a Florida judge ruled that Friede had violated the terms of a legal settlement involving their mother's estate.

He so far has paid his brothers more than $22 million of the $30 million, but legal fees and interest make the shortfall around $10 million, court documents show. A good piece on the back history of the dispute is Kate Taylor's article in the NY Times.

In order to preserve the art collection for the city, museum officials and Friede agreed in March to auction off 76 items like masks, headrests, and mortars.

Also in addition to the family the feud, the Museum itself is fighting Thomas Jaffe, John's half brother, accusing him of "malice and a desire to destroy the relationship between the Friedes and the museum" City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a court challenges accusing Thomas of trying to block a $3.7 million dollar payment which was promised by the Friede family for promotion and study of the art collection.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a court challenge that accuses John Friede's half brother of "malice and a desire to destroy the relationship between the Friedes and the museum" by opposing a $3.7 million payment to the de Young from Hall's estate. Herrera contends the half brother, Thomas Jaffe, has intentionally harmed the museum and public by trying to block the payment, which was promised by the Friede family for the upkeep, promotion and study of the collection.

The Ambassador from Papua New Guinea, Evan J. Paki who writes regarding the importance of the collection and imploring the parties not to sell it off. You can read the letter at

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Delaney Bramlett's Estate in Dispute

From the Venutra County Star
A note of discord has sounded over the estate of the founder of the ’60s rock band Delaney & Bonnie and Friends.

Michele Bramlett, daughter of Delaney Bramlett of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, is suing for part of the estate that her late father left to her stepmother when he died last December from complications of gall bladder surgery.

Michele Bramlett believes her father was mentally unsound and unduly influenced by his wife, when he signed the 2007 trust. Lanier Bramlett maintains her late husband was of sound mind and writing songs up until his death, and charges that Michele Bramlett not around much and so had no knowledge about his state of mind. Lanier Bramlett says Michele lived in New York during the past several years and visited her father only a few times in a space of six years, so she had little opportunity to observe him.

The estate consists of Delaney’s Sunland ranch, the rights to his song catalog as well as his collection of guitars — some given to him by rock ‘n’ roll’s most famous artists. Michele Delaney and her siblings aren’t entitled to anything except what remains after Lanier Bramlett’s death according to the trust.

Michele Bramlett’s petition cites an episode in the early 1990s when Delaney signed away the rights to his songs. In 1996, he sued to regain those rights, and the case was settled in his favor after his attorney presented evidence Delaney suffered from alcoholic dementia and lacked the capacity to make such a decision, Michele Bramlett’s counsel.

The petition asks the court to determine if Bramlett’s trust, dated May 10, 2007, was “procured by means of fraud, duress, menace and undue influence, thereby rendering it invalid,” according to attorney Lang.

Bramlett was a singer-songwriter, with a some well known hits, like Superstar, Let it Rain, and Never Ending Song of Love, which has been recorded by over 100 artists. He produced and co-wrote songs for Eric Clapton’s debut artist and produced a number of notable artists like Etta James, Elvin Bishop, and others. In 2008 Bramlett released his first CD in six years, A New Kind of Blues on his own label, Magnolia Gold Records.

Differently Abled

The link between savant syndrome and autism is well established. This article called "Genius locus," points to a recent study that reinforces this conclusion. It says that as many as 30% of autistic people have some kind of savant type capability in areas like math or music. Autism symptoms like poor communication skills, and obsession with detail are also exhibited by creative types in science, engineering, music, and the arts.

The standard diagnosis requires three things: 1) impairment in social interaction, 2) difficulty in communicating with others, and 3) restrictive and repetitive behaviors and interests. May experts believe that it is the third feature that is related to savant syndrome. Obsessional interests and repetitive behaviors give autistic people the edge in developing keen powers of observation and other skills.

I really like they way the article ends:

Nothing comes for nothing, it seems, and genius has its price.

Savant syndrome, then, is a case where the politically correct euphemism “differently abled” has real meaning. The conclusion that should be drawn, perhaps, is not that neurotypicals (neurologically normal) should attempt to ape savants, but that savants—even those who are not geniuses—should be welcomed for what they are, and found a more honored place in society.

From Greg Mankiw's blog a book recommendation:

A Different Kind of Boy by Daniel Mont
and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I read and liked a lot. One caveat there is a spoiler alert on for some of the comments on amazon.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Speak for yourself later by writing it now

Why Do We Avoid Advance Directives?
By Paula Span

The day will likely come when your parent becomes to incapacitated to make choices about medical decisions. It could happen in ten years or ten months; you just don't know.

When it does you're going to want to know where the advance medical directive for health care is. Your going to want to know what your parents want you to do. You don't want to have to try and guess for yourself.

It’s startling how few Americans have advance directives. A Pew Research Center survey in 2006 found that only 29 percent of people had a living will; in 2007, a Harris study put the proportion with advance directives at two in five.

That can put both physicians and families in an awful bind. Sometimes, a hospital ethics committee has to get involved. Sometimes, courts and lawyers do.

If only the patient had left clear instructions!

So why don’t we?

One reason is that advance directives may be misperceived. People may equate such documents with limiting care, with pulling the plug. But that is only one (optional) aspect of it. Your living will can say anything you want, from pulling the plug in certain circumstances to including instructions to extend your life for as long as humanly possible under any circumstance. And anything in between.

Even with a directive, family members or doctors can challenge the decisions made on your behalf if they disagree. Your wishes will have a much better chance of being carried out if you spell them out clearly in your directive.

The rest of the article is here.

It is not complicated or expensive and many have forms you can do yourself. Utah's is here.

Susan Boyle hearts Donny Osmond

Most viewed video of all time. That girl's going to need some estate planning.

Chances are you've seen the performance of Scottish woman on a "Britain's Got Talent". Her beautiful voice may be in part due to her teenage crush on Utah's heart throb, Donny Osmond.

Boyle’s brother said she would listen to Osmond’s records over and over again, and practice singing. She had Osmond posters all over her walls, and she would lock herself in her room and sing his songs as loud as possible. She'd stand in front the mirror and sing until she achieved perfection.

People around the world can’t get enough of her. So far the internet clips of her recent performance are the most viewed ever and have recorded over 100 million hits.

Video Here

A Dinosaur of an Estate Plan

Michael Crichton, who was married five times, didn't provide for any of his ex-wives when he died last year. He provided for his daughter through a trust and he provided for his widow, Sherri, through a prenuptial agreement that limits her share of the estate. The author even stated in his will that he wanted the prenuptial agreement to be honored.

Who he didn't provide for his son who was born three months after he died. It is not known whether the author knew about the pregnancy. The omitted child is entitled a third of the trust according to Now, even though she signed the prenuptial, she could be named the guardian over her young son's estate, which is valued in the millions and will continue to grow. Mr. Crichton left at least one finished novel and part of a second. They will both be published as part of a $30 million deal Crichton signed in 2001.

Special Needs Trust

Leaving an inheritance to a disabled child can create more problems than it solves. A disabled adult with as little as $2,000 in assets will be disqualified from government programs, such as Medicaid.

That inheritance will have to be spent before the disabled person can receive government assistance. If that person is institutionalized even a sizable inheritance can disappear quickly.

This can all be avoided with a properly drafted and administered special-needs trust.
You can create the trust and use funds to improve your loved one's life without endangering eligibility for government programs. They are usually drafted in such a way that they do not take care of the essentials, housing, clothes, or food, but to take care of supplementary and quality of life expenses, like education, recreation, computer equipment, music, books, etc.

There are approximately 50 million Americans who have a disability. Two-thirds of those people have disabilities that are severe. Having a special needs trust creates a more secure future for these individuals. Any parent can establish this kind of trust and you don't have to be wealthy. A parent can set up a special needs trust for disabled child and contribute to it over time. Should they pass away suddenly the trust would continue to function without interruption.

If you are worried about not being around forever to help and protect a special needs child, you should contact a qualified attorney to get it going.

Heavenly Dogs

Do Dogs Go To Heaven?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wes Bedloe working to stop Elder Abuse in Nursing Homes

The Oklahoman founder of a national watchdog group for nursing homes on Thursday called state and national governments to action to change how substantiated abuse cases are cited and how they influence the rating of nursing homes on the federal Web site.

Wes Bledsoe, founder of A Perfect Cause, says that because families of nursing home residents rely heavily on this rating system, the information there needs to be accurate and complete, he said. Otherwise, the whole system should be taken away.

According to state inspection reports, Oklahoma nursing homes were ranked among the best in the nation. The truth is, the state led the nation not in quality of care, but in corruption.

FBI wiretaps caught the state's top nursing home official demanding kickbacks in return for doctoring nursing home reports for their owners.

The bribery convictions were vindication for relatives and advocates for the elderly who had been warning federal officials about the corruption in Oklahoma's nursing homes for years. According to a Congressional report, of the 393 nursing homes in Oklahoma, 68 facilities — more than one out of every six — had a violation that caused actual harm to nursing home residents or placed them at risk of death or serious injury.

Wes Bledsoe's grandmother, Eunice Allen, died a week after the corruption scandal broke. Inspectors had repeatedly cited the nursing home, Southern Oaks Manor, for harming patients, but little was ever done. His grandmother died of gangrene, and the family later discovered the the "doctor" who signed of on her care was not a physician.

Pass allong the collectible plates

If you're a collector who's going to die someday, you might want to read this at Huffpo.

Lot's of good advice for collectors.

Keep accurate records. The historical record will boost the value of your collection.
Make sure you can document your ownership.
Your children will want to sell what they inherit and selling is very expensive. They may get as little as 20% of sales proceeds.
Have it appraised and provide for estate tax payments if required.
Consider charitable contributions in your planning.

From Brigge's Website

# 33% of high net worth individuals with assets greater than $10 million are serious collectors
# An average of as much as $76 billion in art holdings may be transferred between generations each year
# More than 65% of assets, including art holdings, in private hands face liquidity problems
# In 2007 - 2008, Sotheby’s and Christie’s sold more than $14 billion in art in antiques – almost half of that was attributed to estate sales

Nebraska Adult Adoption Case

John A. Nixon Sr. provided that a family trust would support his wife until her death.

When she died in 1980, the trust was divided in two, with the beneficiaries being Grace Nixon and her brother John A. Nixon Jr. The money from Grace Nixon’s trust would go to her brother or his surviving children upon her death.

Under the terms of her father’s will, the proceeds of a trust created for her in Nebraska would go to her brother and, upon his death, to his four children.

So Nixon, then 64 and living in California, adopted her 50-year-old paternal cousin in 1986. Her cousin, Dr. Richard Daley, would inherit the trust fund instead of her brother’s four children.

Keep this secret, Nixon told Daley, according to court records. Even Daley’s mother, who did not relinquish her parental rights, did not know of the adoption.

The Nebraska Supreme Court, relying on the full faith and credit clause of the U.S. Constitution, ruled Friday that Daley is entitled to the trust proceeds, even though such an adult adoption is not permitted under Nebraska law.

John Liakos of Omaha, an attorney for the Nixon children, said he was shocked and surprised by the ruling.

“There are some things that rise to the level of being so offensive that there should be a declaration that it’s against public policy,’’ Liakos said. “How can you have two mothers at the same time?’’

The high court noted that in his will, John A. Nixon Sr. made no distinction between biological children and adopted children.

The court said that while Nebraska does not allow adult adoptions, there is nothing in the state’s law or public policy to deny adoptees inheritance rights.

Murderers and Abusers Need Not Apply

New Jersey just passed a new slayer statute law that prevents "anyone convicted of a crime that resulted in death or serious bodily injury to a family member of a divorcing party, and crime was committed after the marriage or civil union. In addition a person convicted of an attempt or conspiracy to commit murder will not receive alimony from the person who was intended victim or be awarded equitable distribution.

It also addresses parents who endanger or abuse their children.

Under the law, a parent loses all rights to intestate succession and to administer the estate if:

· They refused to acknowledge or abandoned the child by willfully forsaking or failing to care for it in such a way that it exposed the child to physical or moral risk.

· They were convicted of committing sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, endangering welfare of children, attempt or conspiracy to murder the child or committed abuse or neglect that contributed to the child’s death.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Odd Ending

This building in Salt Lake City, Utah was build 118 years ago and housed the Internation Order of Odd Fellows. It weighs 5 million pounds. The feds want the space for a court. In order to save the building they have lifted it up on rollers and are going to move it out, turn it around, and set it down on the other side of the street.

The building has been sitting like that since last fall. It has been reported to have suffered structural damage when it was raised. An engineer told ABC4 news that he could not assure than that building would survive the move. The project is going to cost more than 7 million dollars.

Phoebe Speaks

Phoebe’s side is being told in an article by a San Luis Obispo magazine called New Times. It's a fascinating look at the woman, and anyone who is following her story should read the article.

Phoebe cook is one of the wealthiest women in the world, but has no access to her estate, which is under the control of a county-appointed conservator. The conservator arranged a monthly stipend, which Cook rejected. She doesn’t trust the bank where the account was opened, and there are a lot of co-signatories. She doesn’t like the thought of all those people watching every dollar she spends.

She worries about her mail being open, phones being tapped, her apartment being bugged. These worries have led her family to be convinced that she is delusional. Doctors, according to court documents, have concluded the same.

She is speaking to the press, even calling the New York Times, to get her side of the story out.

She wants out of San Luis Obispo County and wants to go to San Mateo County where hse considers a residence in Woodside, to be her official address.

She wants court hearings open to public view.

She wants an accounting of her estate since conservatorship began.

She complains that attorneys are acting in her interest and she has no control over their actions.

She was outraged that her prized quarter horses are being sold.

In court documents, county attorneys said the roughly 100 horses needed to be sold because they were costing the estate $100,000 a month (Ms. Cook is worth a couple of billion dollars).

She acknowledges that she needs some help, but admantly does not want her twin brother to control her estate.

She says allegation that people have taken advantage of her to the tune of $20 million dollars are false. She says many of the people she relied on for services, including to care for her horses, subsequently found themselves under suspicion of bilking her.

The interviewer found Cook to be articulate, responsive, and sharp-minded, and engaged in her current fight.

The Ultimate Family Feud

The ultimate family feud stars two families of completely different background and has been going on for thousands of years between the Palestinian and Israeli sides of the family.

At Moorepark College, Prof Linda McDill discusses a family feud that goes as far back as the story of Father Abraham and the Promise, where God promised Abraham and his wife Sarah a child, despite Abraham's age.

Abraham had two sons, one. Ishmael, with his caretaker Hagar. He became the first natural heir of the Arab nations. And a son, Isaac, with his wife, Sarah. Isaac became the heir of the nation of Israel.

The feud revolves around this biblical story, with Muslims believing Ishmael to be the natural heir of the Holy Land, being the first-born. Jews believe the heir is Isaac. The ancient family feud is the central conflict that has lasted thousands of years.

From the Student Voice by Tim Weisberg.

Vocabulary Lessons

Tax credit: A credit that directly lowers your bill. This is like the dependent child credit. If your tax liability is 2000 and you have one child, it is reduced to $1,000, two children, $500, and so on.

Tax credits can be refundable and nonrefundable. The dependent child credit is nonrefundable, if your tax liability is $2000 and you have five children (a credit of $2500) your taxes are 0 not -$500.

The tax credit is refundable you take the full amount even if it pushes your tax liability into negative numbers. An example is the earned income credit, where the tax payer can receive a refund that is more than the amount withheld.

Tax deductions: Tax deductions reduce your taxable income. Mortgage interest and charitable contributions are the most commonly used. The money or a portion of the money spent on tax deductable items can be used to reduce your adjusted gross income, which can drop you into a lower tax bracket.

Tax incentives: Tax incentives are designed to promote and reward certain economic decisions. Here again we have the mortgage interest deduction, which is supposed to encourage home ownership.

Marginal tax rate A marginal tax rate is a system that taxes certain levels of your income differently as you move up into higher tax brackets. So if your adjusted gross income is 40K this year it is taxed at 15% and your tax bill is $6000. If you get a raise next year and your income goes up to 40K you will be taxed 15% on the first 30K and 25% on the 10K increased earnings, not on the full 50K. So your tax bill will be 40 x 15% = 6000 + 20 x 25% = 2500 = total tax of 8500.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Connecticut Officials Choosing Corrupt Outdated Probate System over Reform

Apparently the much needed probate reform in Connecticut has stalled.

From Rick Green Only in Connecticut

Hartford lawyer Peter Costas had this to say in a commentary in today's Courant:

The present system is the last bastion of patronage and cronyism in Connecticut. Probate judges can appoint their friends and supporters as guardians, conservators, etc. Probate judges can provide campaign contributions to legislators in the hopes that they will support their position. As a result, legislators may block efforts to reform, if not abolish, the probate court.

There are 117 probate courthouses - about one for every 30,000 residents in the state. The reformers, which includes the governor, want any contested conservatorship moved to the Superior Court where the judges have to be qualified, unlike probate judge appointees. The Connecticut courts have imposed conservatorships in at least three cases that were outrageous and sparked this latest push for reform.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Track your refund at

Where's my refund?

The Promise of Getting Higher . . .

. . . is bringing people to Utah. Tourism is up 16% since the 2004 start of the Utah Office of Tourism's "Life Elevated" campaign. Temple Square and Zions National Park are the main draws.

Executors become the one to blame in economic hard times

From the Ottawa Business Journal
Estate Executors: The New Sacrificial Lamb
Mon, Apr 13, 2009 12:00 AM EST

A foreseeable consequence of the market's fall is that individuals are paying closer attention to all sources of income these days. Investments and job security are obvious places to focus one's attention, but I've noticed another trend recently: greater scrutiny of estate executors, and their decisions, during the administration of an estate. . . . Executors would be wise to protect themselves during these hard times lest they become the sacrificial lamb, otherwise known as "The One to Blame".

The article goes on to detail the what executors must do to stay out of trouble.

Dying to Finance Conservation of Forests and other Green ways to Die

Reef Rest?

Bloomberg gives us the latest in body disposal trends . .

The Parks and Wildlife Department in Texas plans to become the first government agency in the U.S. to let families lay cremated remains in protected forests for a fee to help the state buy more land for conservation.

Back-to-Earth burials and low- energy, low-emission cremations.
Biodegradable embalming fluid to caskets made of recycled cardboard.
Cremation furnaces up to 40 percent more energy-efficient.

You can also improve the sea by using your cremains to build the Neptune Memorial Reef near Miami. It's also a great option for your "mantle people" relatives.

Interest article with more info and links here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Speaking of Art

Last week, two 16th century paintings that hung in William Randolph Heart's castle were confiscated by the Nazis in 1935. Last week Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and California State Parks Director Ruth Coleman handed them over on the second day of Passover.

The three works were acquired by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst for his 165-room, hilltop castle in 1935; the origins were unknown at the time.

The family struck a deal with the state of California several months ago, after San Simeon curators agreed the paintings were Oppenheimer holdings sold at a Judenauktion, a coerced auction of Jewish possessions.

The paintings were deeded to the State of California with the sale of Heart Castle.

Peter Bloch of Boynton Beach, Florida and Inge Blackshear of Buenos Aires accepted the oil paintings on behalf of their grandparents, Jakob and Rosa Oppenheimer. Inge died at Auschwitz and Jakob died in poverty in Nice France in 1941.

Schwarzenegger's whose father was a member of the Nazi Party, said that the return of the paintings had special meaning for him.

The returned paintings are "Portrait of Alvise Vendramin," attributed to the school of Jacopo Tintoretto, and "Portrait of a Bearded Gentleman," credited to the school of Giovanni Cariani.


NEW YORK (AP) — The executor of Dee Dee Ramone's estate has gone to court to stop publication of a book about the late punk rocker by his first wife.

The manager of the estate, Ira Herzog says Vera Davie of Port St. Lucie, Fla., violated an agreement that allowed him to review and make changes to the book.

The lawsuit in Manhattan's state Supreme Court uses Ramone's real name, Douglas Glenn Colvin. Colvin was with the Ramones from their creation in 1974 until 1989. Colvin began using heroine as a teenager and struggled with heroine addiction the rest of his life. He seemed to clean up his act in the early 1990s and to remain clean for most of that decade until 2002, when he was found dead from an overdose.

Davie's book is "Poisoned Heart: I Married Dee Dee Ramone," published by Phoenix Books of Beverly Hills under the pen name Vera Ramone King. says the author, Ms. King, is afraid of a curse she feels may be responsible for the untimely deaths of the original band members. Marky is the only living member of the longest running Ramones line-up (15 years) that also included Johnny, Joey, and Dee Dee. Joey died of lymphoma in 2001, Dee Dee of an overdose in 2002, Johnny of prostrate cancer in 2004. In the early 1980s, Johnny "stole" Joey's girlfriend Linda Stein, whom he later married. She was the bands manager from 1976 to 1980. She was found murdered in her Manhattan apartment in 2007.

Friday, April 10, 2009

More Reasons to Read

Utah State Parks is launching the Check It Out! program, which allows library-card holders to check out a state park pass at 49 libraries or bookmobiles across the state. Participating libraries will be offering the passes by May 1, if not sooner.

The park pass provides day-use entry for up to eight people in the same vehicle to 42 parks, ranging from the red-rock of Snow Canyon near St. George to Bear Lake on the Utah/Idaho border. Normal day-use fees range from $2 to $10.

See the SL Tribune for details here

Who could have predicted that people would like a shorter work week?

Utah planners say they have not seen the energy savings they expected when a four-day, 10-hour-a-day schedule was ordered for state employees, but there has been another benefit: an uptick in productivity and worker satisfaction. Though some don't like the longer days, seventy percent of Utah state employees prefer the shorter work week. Not only that but, good for their employer, they are taking less leave and working less overtime.


Running into Trouble

Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that Chris Devine of Devine Racing, which owns and operates the Salt Lake Marathon has been accused of financing his marathon empire with money he stole from an isolated multimillionaire C. Robert Allen to the tune of $70 million dollars. Allen's family has charged in a lawsuit Devine and business partner Bruce Buzil of racketeering, fraud, and embezzlement. They describe the Allen as a mentally and physically frail man who was taken advantage of.

C. Robert Allen is the son of Charles Allen Jr. who left school to work on Wall Street at age fifteen. By 1933, he was highly successful and by the time of his death in 1996 left a fortune that was reported by Forbes as valued at 2 billion dollars.

After their initial meeting, the complaint charges that Devine took advantage of Allen's isolation and loneliness, visiting often, calling constantly and performing personal favors for him.

They claim Devine and Buzil sent expensive gifts to Allen including a $250,000 Bentley automobile, but used Allen's funds to pay for it all. Then they persuaded Allen to make several loans to their company, Superior Broadcasting Company, but Allen's family claims that it was just a shell company and it never owned a single radio station.

Beginning in 2005, family members tried unsuccessfully to force Devine to account for nearly $70 million in Allen loans.

Devine established the Salt Lake City Marathon, and purchased the Los Angeles and Las Vegas marathons. Runners, vendors and business associates from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Chicago and New York for years have accused Devine of failing to pay bills on time and reneging on deals and has been sued at least four dozen times.

The bad business practices are especially hard on the runners, who make little, and have had to wait up to two years for their pay. See the rest of the story here.

Do As You Are Told

IRS reminder as Filing Deadline Nears:

File and Pay on Time.


Stealing Your Way to Heaven

From the Roanoke Times A Roanoke pastor stole more that $60,000 from relatives and used the money, in part for computers and a sound system for his church. The relatives were two elderly sisters.

The younger sisters was in her 80s, became ill and was placed on life support. She died the next day and her 91-year-old sister was grief-stricken. The pastor who was already executor over the younger sisters estate, convinced the distraught older sister to give him power of attorney over her affairs as well.

He then took the surviving sister, who was 91 at the time, to a lawyer's office and had her give him power of attorney over her finances. He then started taking money out of her account until another relative found out and put an end to it. He will be convicted of one count of embezzlement. Two other counts of embezzlement and obtaining money by false pretenses will be dismissed if he can pay back the $63,340 that he stole.

4 for 50 - Mr. Bogles relentless rules of humble arithmetic

Business Week has a very nice profile on John C. Bogle, the founder of Vanguard Group. He founded Vanguard in 1974 and was a leader in offering low-fee mutual funds.

Mr. Bogle today, is outraged that while family wealth in this country fell 18% last year and the stock market gains of the last few years have vanished, financial services industry raked in $500 billion in fees. What are we paying them for? he asks. This is his latest and probably last mission - to persuade regulators to clarify and simplify the retirement savings process.

His 1951 senior thesis at Princeton argued that the typical mutual fund "can make no claim of superiority over the market averages." With this in mind, he established Vanguard to offer the world's first index fund that mimicked, not tried to beat the S&P 500. The fee was .46% compared to the typical fee of 1.31.

Bogle's "relentless rules of humble arithmetic" - A dollar invested over 50 years at an 8% annual return compounds to $47, less 2% for expense ratios and transaction costs, and you're down to $18. Factor inflation, and your gain is less than $4.

Mr. Bogle is running a race with a transplanted heart that his body is starting to reject, but he's speaking out where ever and when ever he can because he's dedicated to his cause.

End-of-life Matters in Colorado

In Colorado, a new law — formerly known as House Bill 1260 — allows two people to enter into "designated beneficiary agreements" for estate planning, property purchases, medical decisions and certain benefits such as life-insurance and retirement-plan disbursements.

Ritter's, Evan Dreyer, said the governor sees it simply as a "low-cost option for people to put their end-of-life matters in order."

The law allows any two unmarried adults to designate each other as beneficiaries by filing a form with a county clerk.

Denver Post

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Castrovenes Update

The AP reports that the tax evasion trial Helio Castroneves has come to an end. The defense has been one of ignorance, his lawyers say Castroneves signed anything put in front of him. The reports says that documents and witnesses presented support the prosecution's claims the the crime was intentional and done to get out of pay $2.3 million in taxes. Closing arguments for the defense should be this afternoon.

Wacky Tax

From Newsweek

Cleverly worded tax deductions so it's not obvious which particular taxpayer is getting help.

4. Clarinets and Other Medical Necessities
Way back in 1962, the IRS approved a write-off that was so out there, it's still a favorite of tax lawyers. The agency allowed parents to deduct their children's clarinet and music lessons. The reason? Orthodontists argued that it would help with kids' overbites.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Walton Welfare?

Matt G at thinks he knows why Sen Blanche Lincoln put a provision in the Senate bill that would slash the estate tax rates.

"For much of the last 20 years, Arkansas estate tax collections have been pretty flat, hovering between $10 and $30 million a year. But in fiscal 1996, the state collected just under $120 million in estate taxes. While the state is (understandably) not telling what the source of the single-year bump was, it's generally understood to have been largely due to the death of Wal-Mart co-founder "Bud" Walton in 1995."

Could also account for this.

An End to the Death Period

Sen. Jeff Bingaman D-NM has introduced a bill that would phase out the 24-month waiting period (sometimes called the "death period") for Medicare Disability over the next ten years. Under current policy, with limited exceptions, someone who qualifies for Medicare Disability must wait two years before receiving benefits. Senator Bingaman cites an April 2007 Commonwealth Fund report in his announcement that says over 1.5 million disabled beneficiaries are waiting for benefits at any given time. Most have serious health problems, low incomes, and limited access to health insurance.

While Medicare costs would rise if Bingaman’s bill was adopted, Medicaid costs would be decreased. That would, in turn, reduce the states’ Medicaid contribution.

Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Gene Green (D-TX).


We want homes, not nursing homes

Tom Harkin D-Iowa, has introduced a bill in the senate Congressman Danny Davis D-Il has introduced in the house, a bill that is written to offer more choice and independence for people with disabilities. The Community Choice Act allows people with disabilities who need an institutional level of care the choice of receiving that care in their own communities, in their own homes, rather than in an institution.

We want real homes, not nursing homes,” said Harkin, one of the authors of the Americans with Disabilities Act. “Our current system effectively forces people into institutions and requires them to impoverish themselves in order to become eligible for the assistance they need.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Never Assume

Wall Street Journal has a story about a 97-year-old man who had an estate plan, but it assumed that his much-younger wife would outlive him. Oops, when she died, all of the couples assets went to the woman's children (from a first marriage), leaving him with no money.

The estate wasn't huge, but it but was a nice supplement to his Social Security and small pension.

Fortunately he lived in a state where he could sue for a forced share - usually 30% of the estate for a disinherited spouse, and received $200,000.

The article goes on to talk about investing when you're older.

They Just Can't Kill The Beast

Senate vote on the estate tax showed support is lacking forincreasing the exemption and lowering the tax rate.

Congress is expected to act later this year to re-write estate tax rules to head off the repeal of the tax scheduled to take effect next year.

Obama wants to extend the policy in effect this year, indefinitely. It exempts from estate taxes individual worth of less than $3.5 million or $7 million for married couples, and tax wealth above that amount at 45%.

The proposal voted on today would have increased exemptions to $5 and $10 million, and lowered the tax to 35%. This is estimated to save the wealthiest 0.28 percent of estate owners about $440 billion over 10 years.

But it doesn't look like there's enough support.

Unlike the simple majority needed to approve the budget amendment, 60 votes would likely be required to alter that plan on the Senate floor, according to the Wall Street Journal.

What passed today was called the "Deficit Neutral Reserve Fund for Estate Tax Relief." It reserves the right to review reform later. A deficit-neutral reserve fund reserves your right to lift spending or lower your revenue floor in a way that doesn't harm the deficit. So if they can fund the tax cut, they can hold a vote to cut it.

Passing the bill would means they would have to find billions of dollars to cut from other government spending. The economic hardship facing ordinary Americans right now makes doing that very unpopular with the Democratic Congress.

Push Back

The national group Funeral Consumers Alliance says a bill now being debated in the Colorado General Assembly is really a move by industry groups to protect their profits, but at a cost to consumers.

A bill in the Colorado General Assembly is getting national attention. HB 1202 seeks to regulate those who provide for the final disposition of dead bodies. If the bill passes through Appropriations, it will head to the House floor.

Critics say the bill has confusing and contradictory language, extreme and unreasonable training requirements for embalmers, funeral directors, and cremationists.

Among the provisions in the bill are regulations that require 4,000 hours of interning on embalming bodies. That means almost two years, which critics say is excessive. Another is you want to register as a funeral director, not doing any embalming or cremation, you still would have to learn them and complete the necessary training.

The Boulder Weekly reported that Rep. Nancy Todd admits that she consulted the Colorado Funeral Directors Association for assistance in the drafting of this bill and received input from the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, but not any consumer advocacy groups during the process of writing the bill.

The industry response is that bill seeks to protect consumers against untrained, inexperienced providers, and to recognize individuals who have demonstrated commitment to standards and education within the profession.

Some Alternatives Don't Work Out

An Alton area funeral director who was charged last month with robbing two banks in southern Indiana is now charged with two bank robberies in Cape Girardeau, Mo., as well. Authorities said the man was so desperate over financial problems that he turned to robbing banks. He marketed his services as an alternative to traditional homes, arranging services at churches and private chapels at less cost, but the business was failing.

Escaping the High Cost of Dying

Miami Herald has another take on the way the recession is hurting funeral homes. Funerals typically cost $7,000 - $8,000 and more and more, customers are cutting back and looking for alternatives. So the funeral directors are cutting budgets, but cutting electricity for refrigeration? Not a good idea.

A funeral home owned by Service Corporation International is being of accused of mishandling hundreds of veteran's bodies while they await burial at Arlington National Cemetery. They were left in unrefrigerated garage, hallways, and on makeshift gurneys. A former embalmer, Steven Napper has given his photographs and notes to authorities. All the gory details + pics are here.

It's not surprising that there has been a big uptick in interest in alternatives to what has become known as the traditional funeral. Increasingly people are cutting costs by choosing cremation, home funerals, green burials, and other alternatives.

Maybe This Time

Senator Orrin Hatch R-UT and Blanche Lincoln D-AR have reintroduced a bill that would order the federal government to collect data on elder abuse. It introduces penalties for failure to report abuse and crime in long-term care facilities and provides Adult Protective, among other things. Hatch says that governments spends just $153 million on elder abuse compared $5.7 billion a year on child abuse. It is too small, especially now when 76 million people will be reaching retirement age in the next three decades.

They have tried to enact this law since about 2002.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Questions for the Jury

Do you have any particular expertise on the top of wills and/or powers of attorney?

Do you have a will?

If yes, did a lawyer help you to write your will?

If Yes, and if you have a spouse or partner, what percentage of your assets have you left to him or her in your will?

If you have children, what percentage of your assets have you left to them in your will?

Do you have any views with respect to the gift tax or the tax laws in general that would affect your ability to be fair and impartial in this case?

These are questions for prospective jurors who will hear the case against Anthony Marshall, charged with looting his mother Brooke Astor's estate. Also charged is her attorney who did some estate planning for her.

I doubt that many of the prospective jurors have views about the gift tax or are even aware of it. Anyway it's going to be an interesting trial.

No Peers

Sealing Guardianship court proceedings? That's scary business. Guardianship can completely strip all individual rights from a person. It is completely discomforting that the proceeding could be done, in whole or part, away from the view of the press and public.

George Hearst Jr. asked San Luis Obispo Superior Court to seal information regarding his twin sister Phoebe Cooke Hearst, and his efforts to take conservatorship of her estimated $2 billion estate.

The first time he was rejected; the second time the judge made a tentative ruling on to redact or seal from the public information on a case-by-case basis.

Cooke's brother claims that she is unable to handle her finances making her prey to elder abuse.

Cooke, whose husband Jack died in September, has fought the actions to take over her estate, saying her brother and the others do not have sufficient facts to prove she is mismanaging her assets or that she is being financially abused by others, according to her court filings.

In an interview with The Tribune, Cooke told them that she does need financial guidance now that her husband is dead, but is completely against her brother fulfilling this role. They have had a strained relationship for years.

She also told them that she wished "the court proceedings and resulting information be open to the press to help her receive a fair hearing."

Pain but no Gain

Patients who never talked about their end-of-life wishes were more likely to be resuscitated, intubated or put in intensive care — or all of the above. Patients who had had those conversations generally opted for comfort, or palliative, care at home or in a hospice at much lower cost. Aggressive, expensive care was found to inflict more suffering, but not extend life. According to this item in the NY Times called "At the End of Life, Denial Comes at a Price."

Talk to your loved one's about end-of-life issues before illness occurs. See an estate planning attorney and get a health care power of attorney that allows someone you trust to make medical decisions for you when you can't. Complete a Medical Directive that describes the kinds of care you want and don't want. Utah has a standard form for Medical Directives. Every Utahn should have one. You can get it here.

Recession's Grave Consequences

Lots of news articles on how the funeral industry is suffering in this economy - more people are opting for cremation and lowest-cost coffins and funerals. But none so fun to read as WAPO Dana Milbank's "Funeral Business Feeling Six Feet Under."

A few excerpts:

In case you've been dying for more bad news about the economy, here's a grave new indicator: Even the death industry is in a hole.

It was quite an undertaking, and it didn't work; apparently, funding funerals wasn't regarded as a spur to economic growth, because much of the benefit gets deep-sixed.

And it's not just the corpses that have to make do with less.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Extreme Makeover

Cambodian Divorce via USA Today

Real Justice

In 2000, U.S. District Court Judge Manuel Real was given control over about $34 million in assets seized from Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered him to remit the trust funds to an institutional trustee for safekeeping while ownership issues were resolved.

The 85-year-old judge has not complied and has provided only a minimal accounting, a half-page statement that does not reveal whether or how much interest the funds have earned over nearly a decade. He mentions a $63,000 payment for trustee fees and $5 million in what he calls "other disbursements." It alludes to $98 million in purchases and $118 million in sales suggesting a gain of $20 million.

He has a history of controversy and has been reprimanded by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for misconduct and just last year was booted from three cases in four months for allegedly ignoring evidence and a host of other reasons, according to the WSJ.
Attorneys for the claimants have appealed to the 9th Circuit for a detailed accounting of the assets which could be worth as much as $50 million dollars.

First to Fall - UBS Client Edition

An accountant from Boca Raton has been arrested and charged with filing a false tax return. His is the first arrest of a major American client of UBS, which is accused of helping Americans evade taxes. UBS has admitted to conspiracy to defraud the US.

Risk of Audit

According to the Wall St. Journal, you are more likely to run into the taxman if -

- you make a lot of money.

- take the full mortgage-interest deduction on a refinanced mortgage where you've borrowed to take equity out. This is particularly true in higher-priced housing markets.

- have a major change in income - even if it's a decline.

- big business expenses

- numerous gifts to charity

- reported income that doesn't match numbers on 1099 and W-2 forms

- file Schedule C, profit and loss for business

- big write-offs for hobbies.

Walking Chair

Estate Planning Fraud Alert

$16 M default judgment entered against seller of living trust
By Michelle Massey, Texarkana Bureau
Southeast Texas Record
4/1/2009 7:25 PM

U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes granted plaintiffs a default judgment for more than $16 million against The Estate Plan, a company accused of ripping off senior citizens in Texas and Arkansas.

The Estate Plan and other living trust sellers are facing allegations of "masquerading as qualified financial advisers, estate planners, lawyers, and paralegals" to "exploit and prey" upon senior citizens with the creation and selling of "unnecessary and often useless" living trusts.

The suit claims companies intentionally misstate the law, and use fear of the estate tax to get senior citizens to buy "plans," that are often ineffective and unnecessary.

Once the plans are purchased these operators convince senior citizens to use their IRA accounts or other tax-exempt accounts to purchase variable annuities without disclosing the risks, fees, surrender charges, or commissions.

Defendants are accused of fraud, unauthorized practice of law, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and conspiracy.

Defendants named in the lawsuit are John R. Vermillion, John Vermillion and Associates LLC, CLA USA Inc., CLA USA Insurance Services, CLA Marketing, CLA Estate Services, CLA Insurance Services, Charles Loper Jr., Charles Loper III, Steven Morgan, Robert Reese and The Estate Plan Inc.

The plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on Sept. 11 adding defendants Winning Strategies Marketing, Inc., Quest Staffing Group Inc., James E Bradshaw Jr, Joel Carson and Olaf Turek.

Correction: U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes granted plaintiffs a default judgment for more than $16 million against The Estate Plan after failing to answer the complaint. The Estate Plan has been severed from the suit. Charges are still pending against the others and all are maintaining their innocence. The commenter below is correct.
Literary life after death

By Rachel Keeler

Published: March 26 2009 12:59 Last updated: March 26 2009 12:59

For lovers and scholars of the 20th-century novel, Stephen Joyce has become something of a literary villain. The grandson and sole living heir of James Joyce, the Irish author and poet, has spent the past 17 years fiercely guarding his family’s estate through a series of court battles with those brave enough to try to use copyrighted Joyce documents.

In 1988, he took offense at the epilogue to Brenda Maddox’s “Nora,” a biography of Joyce’s wife, which described the decades that Joyce’s schizophrenic daughter, Lucia, spent in a mental asylum. Although the book had already been printed in galleys, Maddox, fearing a legal battle, offered to delete the section; the agreement she signed with Stephen also enjoined her descendants from publishing the material. Shortly afterward, at a Bloomsday symposium in Venice, Stephen announced that he had destroyed all the letters that his aunt Lucia had written to him and his wife. He added that he had done the same with postcards and a telegram sent to Lucia by Samuel Beckett, with whom she had pursued a relationship in the late nineteen-twenties.

“I have not destroyed any papers or letters in my grandfather’s hand, yet,” Stephen wrote at the time. But in the early nineties he persuaded the National Library of Ireland to give him some Joyce family correspondence that was scheduled to be unsealed. Scholars worry that these documents, too, have been destroyed. He has blocked or discouraged countless public readings of “Ulysses,” and once tried unsuccessfully to halt a Web audiocast of the book. In 1997, he sued the Irish scholar Danis Rose, who was trying to publish a newly edited version of “Ulysses,” calling it “one of the literary hoaxes of the century.” (Around the same time, Stephen expressed his intention to obstruct a proposed new edition by the American scholar John Kidd; he told the chairman of Kidd’s publisher, W. W. Norton, that he was “implacably opposed” to the project, which was never completed.) According to Hans E. Jahnke, Stephen’s stepbrother, who once had a stake in the Joyce estate, the suit against Rose, which lasted five years, cost the estate roughly a hundred thousand dollars. The estate won the case. In 2004, the centenary of Bloomsday, Stephen threatened the Irish government with a lawsuit if it staged any Bloomsday readings; the readings were cancelled. He warned the National Library of Ireland that a planned display of his grandfather’s manuscripts violated his copyright. (The Irish Senate passed an emergency amendment to thwart him.) His antagonism led the Abbey Theatre to cancel a production of Joyce’s play “Exiles,” and he told Adam Harvey, a performance artist who had simply memorized a portion of “Finnegans Wake” in expectation of reciting it onstage, that he had likely “already infringed” on the estate’s copyright. Harvey later discovered that, under British law, Joyce did not have the right to stop his performance. Stephen has also attempted to impede the publication of dozens of scholarly works on James Joyce. He rejects nearly every request to quote from unpublished letters. Last year, he told a prominent Joyce scholar that he was no longer granting permissions to quote from any of Joyce’s writings. (The scholar, fearing retribution, declined to be named in this article.) Stephen’s primary motive has been to put a halt to work that, in his view, either violates his family’s privacy or exceeds the bounds of reputable scholarship. The two-decade-long effort has also been an exercise in power—an attempt to establish his own centrality in regard to anything involving his grandfather. If you want to write about James Joyce and plan to quote more than a few short passages, you need Stephen’s consent. He has said, “We have proven that we are willing to take any necessary action to back and enforce what we legitimately believe in.” Or, as he put it to me during two phone calls that he recently made to me from La Flotte, “What other literary estate stands up the way I do? It’s a whole way of looking at things and looking at life.”

Stephen’s notoriously acerbic dealings are held up by many who question the role of intellectual property law in literary estate management.

For many it's not about money, but about legacy.

Felicity Dahl look after the estate of her late husband, author Roald Dahl.
has established a children’s museum and charitable foundation, presided over several fantastical movie adaptations, set up an award-winning website and is now promoting the new Roald Dahl Funny Prize, awarded in November in London to authors Ursula Jones and Andy Stanton.

While the extended Dahl family shares ownership of the estate and its copyright royalties – 10 per cent of which helps fund the museum and foundation – Dahl explicitly left control of his legacy to Felicity. She now oversees an ebullient team of literary agents, trustees and executors who direct exactly how Dahl’s copyrighted stories, archives and trademarked brand name may be used.

There are big variations in how way estates are handled by heirs. JRR Tolkien sold the film rights to his books in 1969. His family is now embroiled in a lawsuit against New Line Cinema over royalties from the recent Lord of the Rings films. Some authors donate full rights to charities while others leave few instructions to heirs who let the writing slip into obscurity.

But for people such as Felicity Dahl, who see decades of potential wrapped up in art left behind, the proper care and development of a loved one’s intellectual property is everything.

Maintaining artistic integrity in posthumous projects takes a tremendous amount of acumen and finesse on the part of an heir. Getting it right also requires the ability to exploit disjointed levels of international copyright and trademark laws.

Roald Dahl’s archives are open to the public at the Roald Dahl Museum in Buckinghamshire, just outside London.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy April Fools Day, From You Tube

(H/T in Salt Lake City.