Thursday, April 2, 2020
Prince’s Family Claims That They Have Not Received Any Payments From His Estate; They Are Now Asking a Judge To Intervene
Three of the six siblings of the late singer Prince are claiming that they have not received anything from the estate, though they are his legal heirs. Despite this, lawyers and advisers of the estate have been paid. Sharon, Norrine, and John Nelson, three of the singer's siblings, have filed a petition for compensation in Prince’s estate.
The estate is run by Comerica Bank and the two parties have not agreed on many terms in the past. The siblings have accused Comerica of mismanaging money and leaving them out of the loop concerning major decisions regarding the estate. Comerica has denied these allegations. The three siblings say they want to continue helping out the estate but cannot continue without being compensated. The three siblings claim they have had to heavily depend on “solely on their pension, social security, personal savings and loans from friends to cover the costs needed to support the Prince Estate despite the millions paid to advisors, attorneys and others approved by the Court.”
A judge has yet to rule on the case.
See Gibson Precious, Prince’s Family Claims That They Have Not Received Any Payments From His Estate; They Are Now Asking a Judge To Intervene, Baller Alert, March 28, 2020.
Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.
Wednesday, March 4, 2020
The long-time attorney of the late James Brown, Buddy Dallas, did not comment to the media after an investigate series on Brown was released in early 2019. But now that Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard Jr. has stated that he is considering opening a formal investigation into the death of the singer, Dallas did have a comment: "Exhume him. I don't have any feeling about it one way or the other."
There are a few mysteries laying just under the surface pertaining to Brown. After his death at the age of 73 in 2006 in Atlanta, his body was supposedly placed in a crypt outside of the home of his daughter Deanna Brown Thomas near Aiken, South Carolina. However, another daughter in 2010 claimed that the crypt was empty. Both Deanna and the executor of Brown's estate, Russell Bauknight, would not comment as to the body's location.
Another mystery is the man's death itself. When Brown was ill in December of 2006, his friend Andre White suggested he see his doctor, Dr. Marvin Crawford. Crawford treated him for a mild heart attack and a mild case of congestive heart failure on December 23. It appeared that the man improved quickly, and was near being released on Christmas Eve. Later that same night, he stopped breathing. Crawford wanted to know why he had taken such a sudden turn for the worse, so he spoke with Brown's daughter Yamma about having an autopsy done, but she declined. Just a few months later, Yamma's husband Darren Lumar publicly requested an investigation. Lumar was killed in a shooting in 2008, suggested to be a "contract killing," but no suspects have been charged.
Shana Quinones, a Los Angeles woman who said she worked for Brown in the 90s, claims that she knew Brown's personal manager, Charles Bobbit. Bobbit, who died in 2017, supposedly saw Brown the night he died. Allegedly, Bobbit told Quinones that Brown said, "Mr. Bobbit, I'm gone. They got me."
See Thomas Lake, James Brown's Lawyer Breaks Silence as DA Weighs Potential Death Investigation, CNN, March 3, 2020.
Saturday, February 1, 2020
Sabrina Owens, the niece of the late Aretha Franklin, took on the role of executor with the approval of the diva's four sons shortly after the singer's death. However, family disputes were described as the reason for Owens' letter of resignation to her lawyer that was then filed in probate court. The judge overseeing the case is expected to consider Owens’s petition at a hearing on Tuesday.
The timing may cause more confusion as several major projects for the estate are ongoing, including the filming of a biopic starring Jennifer Hudson, who had the approval of Franklin herself. At the time of the singer's death in August of 2018, the court and the family believed that she died intestate. However, Owens found three handwritten wills last May while going through Franklin’s home in Detroit. The discovery led to months of legal woes and tense negotiations among Franklin’s sons and the estate, though the validity of the wills have yet to be proven.
Lawyers for Franklin’s sons have in recent weeks been preparing for a possible trial in the fall, and Kecalf Franklin, asked to have David J. Bennett removed as a lawyer for the estate, though he represented Franklin for about 30 years. In her letter, Owens said she had accepted the role of executor “under two important conditions”: that “no fractured relationships” develop in the family, and that disagreements did not end up in court — “both of which,” she wrote, “have occurred.”
See Ben Sisario, Aretha Franklin’s Estate Still Unsettled as Executor Resigns, New York Times, January 31, 2020; see also Aretha Franklin's Niece Says she's Quitting as Singer's Executor of Estate, Fox News, February 1, 2020.
Special thanks to Matthew Bogin, (Esq., Bogin Law) for bringing this article to my attention.
Tuesday, January 14, 2020
Tyka Nelson, the sister of the late singer Prince, recently informed the court that she sold a portion of her interest in her brother's estate to Primary Wave IP Fund. The estate's personal representative, Comerica, is objecting to the sister's request that Primary Wave now be privy to all matter concerning the estate, including confidential business matters.
Comerica is arguing that it is Tyka and not Primary Wave that is an heir to Prince's estate, who passed away without a will, and thus the company should not be entitled to the "unique role in the administration of this Estate" that the named heirs received. The sister claims that she consulted with legal and financial professionals on her rights as an heir to the estate, and believes that it was fully within her ability to enter into the Expectancy Interest Transfer Agreement with Primary Wave. She added that she did it "in order to realize some value from the Estate before the completion of the Estate administration.” Earlier this month Tyka was ordered to pay numerous attorneys that worked for her $850,000, pertaining to the administration of Prince's estate, so it is not surprising she wanted quicker cash.
See Ryan Naumann, Singer Prince's Estate Battling Sister Tyka in Court, Fight Over Control of His Legacy, The Blast, December 9, 2019.
Tuesday, December 24, 2019
Pop icon Britney Spears has been under a conservatorship since 2008, managed by her father, Jamie Spears. In April of this year, however, fans questioned why the star was going into a wellness facility and whether she was going of her own volition, leading many to protest outside of West Hollywood City Hall. The #FreeBritney movement reached a peak when Jamie received death threats and the police took these seriously.
Absolute Britney blogger Anthony Elia fanned the flames for the passionate fans, claiming that Jamie manipulated Britney's social media to make it appear that she desperately needed help. He said that Britney's father would delete positive comments and highlight negative ones. Jamie's lawyer argued that the claims were defamation, and a judge agreed, ordering that Elia is no longer allowed to comment negatively on the conservatorship.
See Glenn Gardner, Britney Spears' Dad Jamie Wins Injunction Against #FreeBritney Blogger who Accused him of 'Human Rights Violation' with Conservatorship, Daily Mail, December 21, 2019.
Sunday, December 22, 2019
After Ric Ocasek, the singer of the band Cars, passed away three months ago, it was discovered that his wife was left out of his will. However, the widow, Paulina Porizkova, is now seeking an elective share of her late husband's estate, worth approximately $5 million. Under New York law, a spouse is entitled to a third of a deceased spouse's estate. Things get a bit sticky in this case, though.
In his will, Ocasek was very clear on his opinion of whether his wife should get any portion of his estate, including the elective share, because of their ongoing divorce: “Even if I should die before our divorce is final … Paulina is not entitled to any elective share … because she has abandoned me.” If this claim of abandonment can be proven, Porizkova would lose her bid to gain an elective share.
The couple had been married for 28 years but had separated in May 2018. They continued to live in the same Gramercy Park townhouse in Manhattan, though they did not continue a romantic relationship. She discovered his body when she attempted to bring him his morning coffee as he was recovering from a recent surgery. The medical examiner determined that his death was natural and caused by heart disease.
Porizkova was not the only member of Ocasek’s family to get nixed from the will. Two of his six sons, Adam and Christopher, were also disinherited. The two sons Ocasek shared with Porizkova will receive a portion of his estate, though.
See Cortney Moore, Cars Singer Ric Ocasek's Widow Paulina Porizkova Seeks a Cut of his Estate, Fox Business, December 20, 2019.
Saturday, November 30, 2019
Not having an estate plan that clearly details how a person wants to dispose of the entirety of their worldly possessions can cause messy fights between family members. If you are famous like Aretha Franklin or Prince those fights can be on the national stage for millions to watch. For the common man, the embarrasment, angst, and cost can still be painful, and unfortunately it happens everyday across the county amongst probate courts.
The view that estate planning is only for the wealthy is changing, yet many Americans have not taken the most basic steps to ensure that their descendants and loved ones are properly provided for in the future. A recent survey by Edward Jones found that while 77% of Americans believe that estate and legacy strategies are important for everyone, only 24% of Americans have even taken the time to designate beneficiaries for all of their accounts, leaving the simplest of legacy decisions up in the air.
See Celebrity Estate Problems Offer a Cautionary Tale — and Not Just for the Rich and Famous, Market Watch, November 29, 2019.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.
Monday, November 11, 2019
Cars' front man Ric Ocasek, 75, passed away in September while recovering from a recent surgery and was found by his estranged wife, Paulina Porizkova, when she was bringing him coffee. Though this act is undeniably sweet, the two were in the middle of a divorce after being married for 28 years. Citing this, Ocasek laid out in his will that his wife was not to receive any portion of his estate, “Even if I should die before our divorce is final … Paulina is not entitled to any elective share … because she has abandoned me.”
A filing listed with Ocasek’s will show that his assets include $5 million in “copyrights," just $100,000 in tangible personal property and $15,000 in cash. This amount may seem low for a rock legend, but the copyrights were not detailed, and there may more stashed away in trusts to protect his privacy.
His wife was not the only one that appeared to get the short end of the stick - two of his six sons also were not designated as beneficiaries. But they may have been compensated in other ways, either before his death or through a trust.
Ocasek signed the will on Aug. 28, less than a month before his death, and the executor is named as his “friend and business manager,” Mario Testani.
See Priscilla DeGregory and Aaron Feis, Cars Singer Ric Ocasek Cuts Supermodel Wife Paulina Porizkova Out of Will, Page Six, November 7, 2019.
Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) and Jim Hartnett, Jr. (Dallas, Texas Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.
Thursday, September 19, 2019
Britney Spears, the pop princess that dominated the charts in her late teens and early twenties before her extremely public break down in 2008, is still under a conservatorship in California. This year she cancelled her Las Vegas residency and she went to a mental health facility. But her fans believe that she is being silenced and was put into the facility against her own free will, and was able to be forced because of the conservatorship with her father, Jamie, at the helm.
Conservatorships - or guardianships as they may be known in other jurisdictions - are intending to help those who cannot take care of themselves and are unlikely to gain that ability, such as the elderly or mentally disabled. Spears's father is control of her finances and many personal choices (including healthcare), but it is apparent that the musician can provide for herself. She has produced four albums since the start of her conservatorship, was a host on The X Factor, even went on four world tours. Attorney Stanton Stein, whom Jamie has hired for #FreeBritney damage control, rejected the idea that Spears had been coerced or manipulated in any way. “She’s always involved in every career and business decision,” he said. “Period.” There have been no more public outbursts, break downs, or suicide attempts.
So why is there still a conservatorship in place? Her fans believe that she is being micromanaged and manipulated to the point of being under complete control of her father. What really gave the rally cry #FreeBritney fire, however, was a voicemail left on a podcast that dissects Britney's Instagram posts. The caller, identifying himself as a former paralegal for an attorney who worked with Spears’ conservatorship, claimed that the singer’s father was involved in getting her to drop her Las Vegas residency. He also made a series of other allegations and raised concerns about her personal autonomy.
In the meantime, Jamie Spears has requested that the conservatorship be extended to more states, including where his daughter lives to vacation, and his suing individuals with slander over the many accusations.
See Laura Newberry, Britney Spears Hasn’t Fully Controlled Her Life for Years. Fans Insist it’s Time to #FreeBritney, Los Angeles Times, September 18, 2019.
Special thanks to Adam T. Uszynski (Bradicich, Moore & Uszynski, LLP, Victoria, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention
Monday, September 16, 2019
The reigning queen of soul, Aretha Franklin, died in August of last year and the world believed that passed away without a will. But the discovery of three handwritten documents found in her home foreshadowed a rocky and emotional road for her family.
If Franklin had indeed died intestate, Michigan law dictated that because she did not have a spouse at the time of her death, her $80 million estate would have been divided equally among her four sons. But in each of the wills, provided specific provisions to be made for her oldest son, who reportedly has special needs, and that the balance of assets would then be distributed equally among her other three sons. But there remains a question of whether Franklin did create the wills herself, and the youngest son, Kecalf, convinced the judge to have a handwriting expert examine the wills to ensure his mother wrote the documents.
Aretha's niece, Sabrina Owens, was originally named the estate's personal representative, but Kecalf has also petitioned the court to replace her - with him, thus causing dissention among the family. Owens was Aretha's choice to handle her estate, and she is known to be a capable business person, but the largest asset to the estate is no surprise: the rights to the diva's music catalog and likeness. If properly managed, these can be a financial powerhouse to the heirs and preserve their mother's legacy for future generations.
See Cozen O'Connor, As Aretha Franklin’s Heirs Dispute Control of Estate, Judge Orders Court Supervision, Lexology, September 11, 2019.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.