Friday, June 26, 2009

One of a kind - RIP

Michael Jackson 1958-2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It will be a fight to the finish

Following up to a story we picked up earlier this month, the settlement of the estate of Mary Kass the Provincetown artist died last March is going to be a long slog. The fight started even before she died between her caretakers and her immediate heirs, a niece and nephew.

The judge has rejected the Kass heirs petition to be executors and Merrill Lynch who had been serving as co-trustee with caretaker Elizabeth Vallari has requested that she be removed. Furthermore, because of the estate's extensive art collection, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has gotten involved to represent the National Gallery of Art, who was bequeathed her $26 art collection. That part of the case will likely be sent to federal court in Boston.

So the judge has taken the action away from the contestants and appointed a local independent CPA as special administrator to manage the affairs of the estate until it can be settled.

“I think this case is in for the long haul, unfortunately. I think it cries out, as the guardianship case did, for an independent special administrator."

H/T Wicked Local Provincetown

Write up by the Boston Globe

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Unintended Consequences

The Metro train car that slammed into another on the Red Line killing 9 and injuring 76, was two months past due for scheduled maintenance on its brakes, and the car was an older model that federal officials had recommended be replaced because of concerns about its safety in a crash, according to the Washington Post.

From Concurring Opinions, via Taxprof, Taxes incentives may be a cause of the crash. Taxes not only raise revenue they influence behavior, intentionally or not so much.

Here the Metro authorities knew that the aging trains posed safety concerns, one reason they weren't so quick to ask, according to Prof. Sarah Lawsky is they were received money for keeping them.

The Metro Transit Authority sold equipment, including train cars, to another party then leases it back. The other party gets various tax advantages associated with owning the equipment that the Metro as a tax-exempt organization can't take advantage of. In return the company gives a cut of those tax savings back in cash to the Metro.

Father Killer Lives Large

Chagrin Falls, appropriate name for the birth place of this man. Eight months before his eighteenth birthday, he smashed his father's head - killing. He did it most likely for inheritance money. He didn't like his dad. He never felt remorse. But, he did accept the inheritance from his father's estate.

He spent time in a juvenile facility, no time in prison. He's never worked a day in his life. He married an heiress over the strenuous objections of her father.

Before the marriage he wrote a bizarre letter to his soon-to-be father-in-law, asking for a “dowry.” Along with the dowry, he wanted a studio apartment and a salary all in payment for him be her husband. Plus he requested a severance package if the marriage broke up.

Now that the marriage that afforded him the good life has ended and he's looking for another Mrs. Right. More here if you're interested
For the 2nd time in as many weeks a body is discovered that was left behind by a San funeral home. This time in San Antonio. A neighbor stumbled onto this one that had been ditched in a shed behind the abandoned parlor. The body was that of an elderly woman, laid out in a casket and dressed for a funeral.

The business manager said that the body had been kept because the family could not pay for cremation or burial. The family claims that the body was supposed to have been cremated in 2006.


A San Jose woman who organized a car wash to help pay for the funeral of her brother's baby was hit by a pickup truck and killed while participating in the fundraiser.

Hitler's Favorite Composer

Father leaves great grand daughter with a weighty historical legacy

From outsiders, always questions. From the insiders, always silence. If Katharina Wagner, the great-grand daughter of Richard Wagner, gets her way, it will be answers.

The 31- year-old stage director recently took over as co-director of the Beyreuth Festival, Richard Wagner's own opera house, after a long and fierce family battle. The Festival began 133 years ago to showcase Wagner's work.

Sculpture of Richard Wagner by Arno Brekker, Hitler's favorite sculpture.

There has been a long association of Wagner's name and works with racism and anti-semitism. Adolf Hitler was his a fan of the composer's music as well as his anti-Jewish views. Hitler thought that Wagner's opera's spoke to his vision of the future of the German nation. Wagner's influence on Nazism is still debated today. and saw in Wagner's operas an embodiment of his own vision of the German nation.

Now Katharina wants to access the history even though some members of her family are against it. She has asked independent investigators to delve into her family connection to the Nazi regime and to open up the private archives of her father Wolfgang Wagner.

Exotic Fates of 10 People Who Shoulda Known Better

In 1912, an Austrian tailor named Franz Reichelt came to believe that he had successfully made a coat that would double as a parachute.

"Instead of testing it by, say, jumping from the roof of a barn onto a haystack, he traveled to Paris and leapt off the Eiffel Tower, falling 197 feet to his death."

In 2006, Ohtaj Humbat Ohli Makhmudov of Azerbaijan attempted to prove the existence of God by climbing into a lion’s den at the Kyiv Zoo in Ukraine. “Because God loves me,”

Veronica, one of the zoo’s trio of lionesses, pounced on him, leaving 10 puncture wounds in his neck. He died instantly.

The rest are at

Monday, June 22, 2009

Proper Asset Titling a Fundamental Part of the Estate Plan

From the LA Times, a primer on asset titling:

Tenancy by the entirety - available only to married couples. Each spouse has an undivided interest and equal right of possession. Also each spouse inherits a deseased spouse's interest. Creditors of either spouse cannot attach a lien on a property unless the judgment is against both of you.

Tenancy in Common - Each owner owns a set but not necessarily equal percentage. No rights of survivorship. Each owner can convey his portion without the consent of other owners. Unless the property is held in trust, it will go through probate at owner's death.

Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship - This is like Joint Tenancy, but the property is not protected from the individual creditors of each owner. Also this property will always transfer to the surviving Joint Tenant owner.

Sole Ownership - You have sole control over the property and can will it to who you want. If you marry later, your spouse isn't an automatic co-owner, and depending, if you divorce, your ex-spouse may not have any claim to the property.

The article lightly discusses trust and tax issues, but as always, you should consult and professional estate planning attorney.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Estate Planning is for Everyone

At there is a guest post from Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool.

"We interrupt this regularly cheerful website to bring you some unpleasant news: You’re not going to live forever. And, just to pile on the unpleasantness, you might become incapacitated before you join that Great Tax Shelter in the Sky."

Then he goes on to tell what you need to know.

10 steps everyone should take to get their legal ducks in a row.

1. Create or update your will
2. Get a living will
3. Appoint a durable power of attorney.

Read the rest here. If you live in Utah and need help with any of this contact us.

Keeping Lenin in Lusrine Suits

The fund that cleans up the mummified Lenin every three years is out of money and can't afford to buy him the lustrine (silk) suit that he prefers.

More at

More from

150,000,000 people have visted Lenin's Tomb.

Work on improving his appearance continued for decades after his death.

The mausoleum is kept at 59F.

There is a "body brigade that regularly removes Lenin's clothing and examines the body for signs of wear and tear.

Every 18 months he's bathed in preservatives and injected with chemicals.

Over My Dead Body

California law gives inheritance rights only to children conceived within 300 days of the parents death. 10-year old Brandalynn's father died in 1995. Her mother was impregnated with his sperm in 1998 and the girl was born in 1999. Also the fact that there was no evidence that the father had given consent. Consent indicates a willingness to support.

So the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling that the child was not eligible for federal survivor payments under California law. (Vernoff v. Astrue

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I hear that wistle blowin . . .

No funerals for poor indigent people in Illinois. I guess they'll have to take the train to Indiana.

Depression Charitable Giving

Money woes are stalling the community centers that Joan Kroc wanted to build.

The widow of McDonald's Corp. developer Ray Kroc left $1.8 billion to the Salvation army to build community centers like the one in San Diego, but the recession has made that unlikely. The damage to her bequest and faltering fundraising in many cities stopped all but four from being completed and two will not be built at all.

We'll restore her rights as soon as we spend all her money

By way of Wills, Trust and Estates blog is this story from the Star Tribune in Minneapolis with the tagline "An Excelsior woman joined the growing ranks of Minnesotans who lose control of their finances to lightly regulated guardians."

Last month, a state study concluded that the system has inadequate procedures for dealing with complaints, evaluating a ward's well-being and keeping track of money.

Peggy Greer became addicted to morphine after a back injury. Her daughter petitioned for co-guardianship with her brother in July 2004. A home health care worker checked on Greer and found her malnourished and dehydrated and she was removed to a hospital. The family agreed that a third party should take over the decision making. A professional guardian was assigned.

Greer broke her chemical dependency and regained her capacity, but was unable to break the bonds of conservancy.

During that two-year guardianship, she claims her assets were were wasted, they spent her money (over $600,000) and took a reverse mortgage out on her house, plus she ended up paying for everyone's attorney fees as required under Minnesota law.

The reporter writes:

"In the spring of 2007, the guardian no longer opposed having her rights restored. The change coincided with the fact that Greer's assets had been exhausted."
Tasha Tudor was a well-known children's book illustrator who died last year. She lived in Marlboro Vt. in a replica of a 19th century New England homestead. She made her own clothing and raised goats for their milk. She earned a fortune for her detailed, whimsical illustrations in such classics as "The Secret Garden" and "Little Women."

Her death launched a fierce fight for her $2 million dollar estate. Three of her four children were cut out of her will, leaving most of her estate to her son Seth Tudor and his son. Another son Thomas and two daughters are alleging undue influence. Thomas didn't even know that he was "estranged" or that he had been cut out of the will until he read a copy of it.

The fight has become bitter, with one judge complaining that they just can't agree on anything.

She was an not religious and she didn't want any ceremony or funeral and the children are fighting over a public memorial service that was held months ago. Also she wanted to be cremated with her ashes put to rest in her garden. The siblings are arguing that Seth hasn't properly handled the ashes and hasn't laid her to rest. They have even requested that the ashes be tested, a request Seth's lawyers "utterly pointless and degrading" and an "insinuation of the grossest kind of misconduct."

There is so much poison that Seth's lawyers have asked that the court seal the records, accusing the other siblings of using court filings to wage personal attacks and sully his reputation.

All the gory details are at the Boston Globe

Her obit is here.

And a link to a site ironically called where you can shop for books and prints or schedule a tour.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

When the ruthless prey on elderly victims, Financial Guardianship may be the only answer

Wall Street Journal has good article by Karen Blumenthal on just how ruthless and hard to stop are the scams against the elderly.

She writes of an aging patriarch in his 70s, an Ivy League-educated professional who sent thousands and thousands of dollars to strangers. Government agencies at all levels are fragmented by their jurisdictions and priorities and scammers are particularly bold and brazen, because they know they won't be caught.

In these tough financial times people are susceptible when they think they have a change to make up for losses in retirement savings, housing values, etc. It's particularly effective on the elderly who have lost some of their mental capacity, or are stressed by illness or loss of a spouse.

Once a person responds to a scammer, they become part of a sucker list that makes them a broad target as the lists are sold a over and over again throughout the world.

These predators spend a lot of time getting to know their victims and building up trust. They learn their target's interests, routines, pets, children, about their neighbors and their churches, and finally about their bank accounts. Through all of it, the victim often begin to consider the caller a friend.

In the end a financial guardianship maybe the only way to stop it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The State of the Estate Tax in Vermont

State of vermont is getting $13 million in estate taxes from the estimated $80 to $100 million dollar estate of a resident who died last year.

In a report on the Vermont estate tax done in 2001 by the Vermont Joint Fiscal Office, in Fiscal year 2001, 221 estate tax returns were filed in Vermont. Roughtly half (108 returns) had no tax liability. Of the 87 returns with liability, five estates valued over $10 million paid 75% of total estate tax that was collected.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Can you recruit someone into the marines who's been declared incapacitated?

A Marine Corps private facing a court martial that will put him away for years, somehow enlisted in the service despite being diagnosed with autism and being subject to a conservatorship. Autism impairs comprehension skills, communication skills, and results in restricted and repetitive behavior.

As he grew up he spent time in a lockdown treatment center and a group home. His grandmother is his court ordered conservator because he is “developmentally disabled” and “unable to provide for his … personal needs for physical health, food, clothing or shelter.”

He enlisted in the Marine Corps Jan 2008 and completed boot camp. He was found with child pornography went awol. His attorney claims he was exploited to meet recruitment goals and that they can't court martial him, because he never had the capacity to consent to enrollment in the first place.

The young man also had a history of trouble in his past. His parents were drug addicts and had constant behavior problems. He spent 15 months in a correctional facility for theft and "other" behavior problems.

The whole article's at via

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Another American Dream Disappearing - Retirement

81 years old, suffering from diabetes, this 81-year old woman is just starting a job in Danforth, Illinois. The ranks of elderly job seekers to 1.8 million in the last year, which is more than 120 % more than the year before, according Reuters.

Alzheimers Test

A for more accurate test for detecting Alzheimer's?

Administered to 540 subjects with no history of neurological disease, 139 patients with diagnosed Alzheimer's and 31 patients with non-Alzheimer's degenerative dementias. The test measures sematic knowledge, calculation, naming, recall, to name a few. You can take the quick test at abcnews if you dare.

Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Sale

Lawn Ornaments of the Late Doris Duke's Estate

From Antiques and the Arts Online
The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation decided to sell off some of its holdings in an Action May 2nd and 3rd at Millea Bros Auctions and Appraisals. The sale attracted huge interest and brought in over $2,000,000.

You can view the catalog here

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Called Home

Put a period to your existence? Scathed by the wing of the destroying angel? Summoned to the reward of the righteous?

I didn't know there was such a thing as Obit Magazine, but there is and it has a great article (quick fun read) on the evolution of the American Obituary.

The Passing News, by Jeff Gammage

H/T Washington Post's Post Mortem Blog

Monday, June 8, 2009

They do it different there


Walled-in by a court ruling

06 June, 2009, 05:23
Two people were walled-in part of their home in the central Russian city of Novosibirsk (Russia's third largest city) after a court ruling ordered them to divide an inherited apartment using a wall.

As one of the lawyers, Igor Smirnov, told Interfax on Friday, one of the proprietors, along with his mother, were walled-in that part of the apartment which has no front door.

Battle for the Starving Artist's 60 Million Dollar Estate

Mary Kass was born on June 14, 1930. She was raised in Washington, D.C., graduated from Sidwell Friends School, studied art at the University of Michigan and the Sorbonne. She studied in Provincetown under expressionist artist Hans Hofmann and in later years, out of fondness for the area moved there permanently.

Mary Kass was a dedicated artist who inherited a fortune. She was worth 60 million dollars and had an extensive art collection that includes Matisse, Picasso, and Renoir among others.

Even before she died on March 19 this year, the battle for her estate was on. It started with a guardian fight between Kass's relatives (she had no immediate family) and her personal trainer, Elizabeth Villari, who met Kass in Sept 2001. The nieces and nephew claim that Vallari and Mary Kass's psychotherapist, Mary Ellen Henry, took advantage of Kass's dementia and in less than two years Mary had changed her will to benefit them.

According to a report in the Boston Globe, Kass lived the life that her neighbors thought of as a starving artist in a modest home in Provincetwon. Elisabeth Villari was given power of attorney and later purchased a 3 water-front houses valued at $6.7 million total. She then had the modest house Kass lived in sold. The relatives argued that this was out of character for a woman who had always preferred a simpler private life.

They went to visit Kass and felt she was suffering from dementia and filed for guardianship. Henry and Villari claimed that Kass was not close to her relatives and it was they who took care of Kass during her bouts with depression and encouraged her to have a social life.

The court awarded guardianship to Villari and now with Kass's death the fight continues. Mary made a will in 2004, but the relatives have produced on dated 1992 and are claiming undue influence.

Merrill Lynch is a co-trustee and has asked the probate judge to be allowed to manage the estate without Vallari until the issues are settled.

Debt Paydown bodes well for the de Young's Jolika Collection

We've been following the story of the Oceanic Art Collection that is involved in a family inheritance dispute. This week the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the battle for Oceanic Art will be fought in San Francisco. The Museum’s ability to hold and keep the entire 4000-piece collection is under threat by a dispute that ensued when 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, Evelyn A.J. Hall's, estate with his two brothers (Evelyn Hall was Walter Annenberg's sister. She was an avid art collector and philanthropist).

His brothers, Thomas Jaffe and Robert Friede, claim the right to the artwork because John Friede owes them a $30,000,000 settlement from an inheritance dispute in Florida. Separately, Sotheby's sued John Friede in New York over $25 million it was owed, and a judge there has ruled that the auction house can take 54 works.

The museum in reliance on the gift, designed and built a major 8000-square-foot gallery to house the collection and under a 2007 Promised Gift and Deed of Gift Agreement the Friedes expressly agreed to keep the works free and clear from any "liens, claims and encumbrances of any kind unless the Friedes obtain prior written approval from the Fine Arts Museums."

The only exception is for works already pledged to secure a loan under a preexisting agreement with Sotheby's, according to a complaint filed by the City on September 17, 2008.San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued the brother in an attempt to protect the collection from being dismantled. A San Francisco Superior Court ordered that the art work will stay where it is for the time being.

According to the article, Freide has been paid down his $24 million of debt to his brothers and now owes them only $6 mil, so the city is hoping that there's a chance the case can be resolved without going to court.

For more about the collection check out this interview with John Friede at and the de Young web page on the Jolika Collection.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Left for Dead

One of the four decomposing bodies found in the vacant funeral home in Gary Indiana has been identified. It's the body of a 70-year-old man who's identity is not being released. The three others were determined to be female. They've probably been there since 2006 when Darryl Cammack, who operated Serenity Gardens lost his license. He has not cooperated with authorities, according to the Post-Tribune. The prosecutor's office in Lake County, Indiana, is requesting and investigation. You should check out the images here.

Phoebe Gives Up?

The supervision of Phoebe Hearst Cooke’s care and estate is now in the hands of her twin brother and her nephew. It took 'em almost a year, but they finally did it. Judge Teresa Estrada-Mullaney ruled, based on written reports, that Cooke is paranoid and suffers from significant cognitive impairment and is thus unable to care for herself or protect herself against potential fraud.

Reporting from San Luis Obispo'sNew Times

"Cooke’s court-appointed attorney Martha Spalding mounted no obvious defense. She offered no opening statement, rebuttal, or witnesses in the case, allowing a confidential report to the judge to represent her position. She declined to comment after the decision.

Cooke herself, in interviews, had said she was not happy with her defense and felt she had no control over the processes. She made numerous attempts to hire her own attorneys, without success. More broadly, while she had said she needed more help than she had been getting under the county’s control of her estate, she did not want her brother and nephew to have control over her estate and personal life."

It's impossible to know with what limited reporting has been done, but I hope the right thing has happened.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Search for Wealth

The WSJ says wealth is a word used in searches 1.5 million times a month and the url will go for more than $2.9 Million.

So I Googled wealth and came up with this advice from an article in the Staten Island Advance by Maura Grunlund about using Feng Shui to promote wealth.

Among other tips and suggestions:

The entrance to your home should be the portal for good energy.

Attach three Chinese coins to the back of the mat or rug so that every time someone walks in they symbolically bring money into your life.

Plants that are wealth enhancers are bamboo and jade.

Goldfish are . . . supposed to attract wealth.

A full refrigerator reaps abundance.

Keep toilet seats down when not in use, otherwise money will disappear with each flush.

The search for wealth ended here at freshome where I learn of a toilet-shaped house built outside of Seoul in 2007. The house is named Haewoojae, which signifies in Korean "a place of sanctuary where one can solve one's worries".

It probably cost a fortune.

You don't need to be Bill Gates to consider setting up a trust for your kids.

So starts the article at the WSJ by Stacey L. Bradford author of The Wall Street Journal Financial Guidebook for New Parents

Children under the age of 18 can't directly inherit so you have to appoint a guardian to manage the assets or the court will do it for you.

A trust can give you some say in how the money is used, like for college, etc., and at what age or ages it is made available to your child.

This article has some real good information and advise including things to consider when choosing a trustee.

The author's book is a practical approach to affording your kids from cradle to college, according to the publisher Random House. You can get a 22 page preview the here.

Controversy over the Bergman Estate in Faro

The secluded island home where Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman spent his final years is up for sale.

The property brochures states that Bergman first visited Fårö in 1960, in search of a location to shoot “Through a Glass Darkly.” In his memoir he wrote, “If one wished to be solemn, it could be said that I had found my real home; if one wished to be light hearted, it could be said that it was love at first sight."

Here's a travel story from the NY Times "The Enchanted Island That Bergman Called Home"

The estate has four dwellings and a private movie theater.

The Bergman Center Foundation is appealing for funds to buy the late Ingmar Bergman's estate on the Baltic Sea island of Faro and for the use of filmmakers and other artists. Originally this is what Bergman wanted, but later changed his mind and dictated in his will that the property be sold.

The sale, which is being handled by Christies and began on May 18, is facing serious opposition in Bergman’s native Sweden. There have been accusations that the Swedish government is not doing enough to preserve his legacy.

Queen Elizabeth's bad bad day

Cattle rustlers stole prized cows and bulls from an English country estate of Queen Elizabeth that were being fattened up for the royal dining table.

Tony Barratt, the farmer in charge of some 300 livestock on the British queen's Sandringham estate in southeastern England, told Reuters on Wednesday that police were investigating the disappearance of the cattle over the last week and said they had probably been illegally slaughtered by now.

The 19 animals were kept at Sandringham in Norfolk, about 100 miles north of London.


THIEVES have buzzed off with half a million of the Queen’s honey bees destined for Balmoral. The bees, which were about to be delivered to the Queen’s Balmoral Estate on Deeside, were stolen from a Scottish farm.

A total of 11 beehives were taken from Learilaw Farm, near Broxburn, in West Lothian which supplies the Queen’s estate. The bees, valued around £5,000, were due to arrive at the Queen’s estate in time for the July harvest.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

They really do like older people

Seaside town of Puducherry, India

Faced with crippling medical costs, Herzfeld took his mother and father from their home in Florida to India and managed to give them such a high level of care in the oceanside city of Puducherry (formerly Pondicherry) that they appeared to regain some quality of life and even dignity. Guardian via

Heirs Sell Les Memoires

From Forbes

The family of a Virginia dairy farm owner named Harry Walton has put his extensive collection of first edition erotica up for sale. They will be offered by Bloomsbury Auctions on June 23rd. One of them is Mémoirs de Fanny Hill, a French edition of the landmark erotic novel, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by English novelist John Cleland, first published in 1749. Estimated at $4,000-$6,000 and printed in Paris in 1887, it comes encased in a cardboard box covered in handmade marbled paper in subtle tones of mauve, tan and pale blue.

The book is a masterpiece with 51 hand-painted watercolors and 10 engraved plates.

In the lower right corner of page 19, for instance, two women loll in bed naked, illustrating the first time Fanny makes physical contact with her future trade in a London house of ill repute.

Only five copies of the edition exist, each one an original because the paintings are all unique. The Walton erotica lots include an almost-complete collection of first-edition novels published by the Olympia Press. Launched in Paris in 1953, Olympia is famous for having put out controversial titles like Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita and William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch.

The collection is expected to bring in 80 - 120K

Monday, June 1, 2009

Shedding Light on the Shadow Billionaire

There's a new documentary about Larry Hillblom, the late billionaire founder of DHL. The blurb on the movies web site says the documentary unravels his secretive life. The battle over his estate took on epic proportions and pit impoverished teenage prostitutes up against Larry's former business associates and several of the largest law firms in the world.

Questions Remain

Remains of a fifth person were found in the funeral home that was recently sold at a tax sale. A woman has come forward saying her stepfather's body may be among the four unidentified remains found. She said that at the memorial service for him, Funeral Home owner Darryl Cammack displayed a box supposed to be holding Johnson's cremated remains. When questioned, Cammack told her the body hadn't been "processed."

"One of the kids opened the box and said it was empty," she said. From

The former owner cannot find his "records" and has denied responsibility.