Dr. Seuss Controversy Impact on Estate?

It may surprise you to know exactly how profitable the estate of Dr. Seuss continues to be. Eighty years after the publication of his first children’s book — “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” which is among the works being discontinued — the author’s collection still makes a whole lot of money, says The Wealth Advisor’s recent article entitled “How Dr. Seuss became the second highest-paid dead celebrity.”

Forbes.com’s annual inventory of the highest-paid dead celebrities, Theodor Geisel —AKA “Dr. Seuss”— ranks second, only trailing Michael Jackson. The Seuss empire raked in earnings last year of $33 million. In other words, the Vipper of Vipp, Flummox and Fox in Sox generated a bushel-full of dough in 2020.

Add to this, the fact that because of the news that six of his 60+ books will no longer be published, buyers are scrambling to purchase his back catalog. This means more money for the good doctor, as evidenced by the fact that recently nine of the top 10 spots on Amazon’s best-sellers list were occupied by Dr. Seuss, including classics “The Cat in the Hat,” “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

The answer to how Dr. Suess’ estate has maintained a $33 million fortune 30 years after his death, is that it’s his wife’s doing. Geisel died in 1991 at the age of 87. Two years after that, Audrey Geisel, founded Dr. Seuss Enterprises to handle licensing and film deals for her husband’s work.

She passed away in 2018, but Dr. Seuss Enterprises is still going strong. It’s shrewdly built the Seuss brand with kids’ merchandise and several television and film projects, notably the animated “Green Eggs and Ham” series, which debuted on Netflix in 2019, starring Michael Douglas, Keegan-Michael Key and Diane Keaton.

Past Seuss projects include Jim Carrey’s “The Grinch” in 2000; Mike Myers’s mediocre “The Cat in the Hat” in 2003, “Horton Hears a Who!” in 2008; not to mention the 2001 Broadway bomb “Seussical.”

Reference: The Wealth Advisor (March 9, 2021) “How Dr. Seuss became the second highest-paid dead celebrity”


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Old Sturbridge Village Museum Receives Millions from Will of California Woman

The gift from the estate of Helen A. Titus, known to her friends as “Susie,” is the biggest one-time bequest in the history of the Old Sturbridge Village Museum in Sturbridge, Massachusetts that dates to 1946.

Titus passed away in 2020 at age 81.

NBC 10 Boston’s recent article entitled “Old Sturbridge Village Gets $5M Gift From Estate of Trustee” reports that the native Californian fell in love with the architecture, the people and the history, both at the village and in New England after her visit.

“Susie was incredibly supportive of the museum over the past 20 years, and we are grateful that she made such a generous provision for the Village in her estate planning,” President Jim Donahue told The Telegram & Gazette. “Susie’s legacy and impact will live on for generations to come.”

Officials say that Susie’s gift is unrestricted. That means the Old Sturbridge Village Museum can use it as it sees fit.

The village will soon launch a campaign to raise money to help rebuild roads, HVAC systems and roofs. Donahue said he thinks that Susie’s gift will play a part in that campaign.

The 200-acre Old Sturbridge Village Museum depicts life in a rural New England town of the 1830s.

If you are considering a charitable donation in your last will or trust, speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. You can learn that there are several ways to incorporate charitable giving into your estate plan.

You can donate appreciated stock shares, your RMDs from your retirement accounts, or create a charitable remainder trust. These are only a few of the options you may not know about, that can help charities. Some will even benefit your heirs at the same time.

It is important to understand that all of the options have different tax implications. Your attorney will help you consider the tax impact of your charitable giving.

Playing it smart can result in ultimately increasing the amount that goes to the charity, as well as your family after you pass away.

Reference: NBC 10 Boston (March 7, 2021) “Old Sturbridge Village Gets $5M Gift From Estate of Trustee”


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The Latest on the Denver Broncos and Late Owner Pat Bowlen ’s Trust

The Denver Post’s recent article entitled “Broncos ask Denver County District Court to confirm right-of-first-refusal is terminated” says that the battle over the Denver Broncos football team is far from over, and what Pat Bowlen intended in his trust may not come to pass.

After Pat Bowlen died in 2019 at age 75 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s, his two oldest daughters placed themselves at risk of being disinherited by challenging their father’s trust. The trust is tasked with choosing the next controlling owner of the Denver Broncos, a pro football franchise valued at more than $2.5 billion.

“This lawsuit is a proactive, necessary step to ensure an efficient transition of ownership, whether the team remains in the Bowlen family or is sold,” long-time Bowlen attorney Dan Reilly said in a statement. “We are confident that the court will find the right of first refusal is no longer enforceable, consistent with Colorado law and the intentions of Pat Bowlen and Edgar Kaiser in their written agreement more than 36 years ago.”

So, if the Broncos’ next controlling owner is Pat Bowlen ’s daughter Brittany, the preferred choice of the trustees, or if the team is sold to an outside buyer, they should be able to move forward without interference from Kaiser’s camp. Kaiser died in January 2012.

Even if this lawsuit drags on, it will not cause a delay in the Arapahoe County District Court battle between Bowlen’s daughters Beth Bowlen Wallace and Amie Klemmer and the trustees who want to invalidate the 2009 trust on the grounds that Pat did not have the capacity to sign his estate-planning documents.

This part of the Broncos ownership soap opera began in May 2020, when an attorney sent the Broncos counsel a letter stating that his client be sent “notice,” if the team named a new controlling owner or was sold. When Kaiser sold 60.8% of the Broncos to Bowlen in 1984, a right of first refusal was included in the agreement. A year later, Bowlen bought the other 39.2% from John Adams and Tim Borden for $20 million.

In 1998, Pat Bowlen offered retired quarterback John Elway the chance to buy 10% of the team for $15 million. However, Kaiser opposed, saying Bowlen had to offer any piece of the Broncos to him before he offered it to another party. The courts ruled in Bowlen’s favor, even though Elway didn’t take him up on the offer. The court said the right of first refusal only applied to the 60.8% ownership interest that Pat purchased from Kaiser. However, Pat’s win didn’t totally eliminate the right of first refusal, which gave Kaiser 14 days to decide whether to buy the team if Bowlen found a buyer.

Reference: Denver Post (Jan. 26, 2021) “Broncos ask Denver County District Court to confirm right-of-first-refusal is terminated”


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Aretha Franklin ’s Estate and IRS Resolve Tax Debt

The IRS said that the singer Aretha Franklin ‘s estate owed more than $7.8 million in unpaid income taxes, plus interest, plus penalties, from the last seven years of her life. There’s no lack of drama in the Queen of Soul’s estate mess, but the IRS has been the most relentless creditor, as reported in the article “Aretha Franklin estate reaches deal with IRS to pay off claimed $7.8 million tax debt” from the Detroit Free Press.

This is actually a big breakthrough for Franklin’s four sons. The agreement will not only speed up the payment of the remaining tax burden, but it will also give the sons some money from their mother’s fortune. They could not receive any money from the estate, until this part of the IRS negotiations were resolved.

A petition was filed in Oakland County Probate Court on February 19 by the estate, which is why the details are public. The proposed arrangement includes an immediate $800,000 payment to the IRS, although the estate still maintains that the overall balance owned is not what the IRS claims.

Since Franklin’s death in 2018, the estate has been paying on the tax debt and the interest, while appealing the agency’s claimed total. As of December 2020, that balance was $4.75 million.

The new filing says that the final IRS bill will be determined, either by an agreement being reached or litigation in court.

This deal also maps out how Aretha Franklin’s posthumous income will be allocated, until the tax debt is settled. The document is backdated to January 1 of this year, and includes new income from song royalties, licensing agreements and the other money streams that are part of celebrity estates.

The agreement says that 45% of quarterly revenue will go towards the existing IRS balance, and another 40% will go into an escrow account to handle future taxes on the newly generated income, with 14% used to manage the estate. There will be immediate $50,000 payments to each of the four sons, and other quarterly cash payments may be authorized in the future.

No less than ten attorneys were involved, representing the sons. The agreement was submitted by Reginald Turner, a Detroit attorney who is also the incoming president of the American Bar Association. He was appointed last year as a temporary personal representative of the Franklin estate.

The family is waiting for a judge to approve the order.

Aretha Franklin died in 2018, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. As her estate proceedings have continued, her career and her life have continued to stay in the public’s eye with high-profile musical celebrations, television commercials and film projects.

All of the posthumous work generates income, all of which will continue to be taxed. An estate plan could have saved the four sons from so much of the publicity, emotional stress, legal fees and taxes.

Reference: Detroit Free Press (March 1, 2021) “Aretha Franklin estate reaches deal with IRS to pay off claimed $7.8 million tax debt”


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What’s in Benjamin de Rothschild ’s Estate?

Edmond de Rothschild Holding SA described Benjamin as a “visionary entrepreneur, passionate about finance, speed, sailing and automobiles.” He died recently at 57 of a heart attack, according to Wealth Advisor’s recent article entitled “Billionaire Benjamin De Rothschild, Heir To Storied Banking Fortune, Dies At 57.”

A member of one of Europe’s most famous banking families, Benjamin de Rothschild inherited a branch of the family bank that concentrated in private wealth management. The Edmond de Rothschild group, founded in 1953 by Edmon Adolphe de Rothschild, manages more than $190 billion in assets and employs 2,600 people in 32 locations around the world. Forbes estimates that Benjamin was worth about $1.4 billion at the time of his death, with his ownership of Edmond de Rothschild Holding SA accounting for most of his fortune.

Benjamin is survived by four daughters — Alice, Eve, Olivia, Naomi — and his widow, Ariane, who has run the Rothschild Group with him for several years.

Benjamin was a descendent of James de Rothschild, the founder of the French branch of the Rothschild family and one of five brothers who were sent across Europe by founding father, Mayer Amschel in the early 1800s. In 1953, Edmond Adolphe de Rothschild, the great-grandson of James de Rothschild, formed the branch of the bank is called Edmond de Rothschild. This branch of the bank is very different from the more famous Rothschild & Co that is best known for its part in drafting the rulebook for the international bond market before WWI.

Benjamin De Rothschild had been in control of the banking concern created by his father since 1997 and worked to simplify its structure after delisting.

As of the end of 2019, Edmond de Rothschild Holding SA had $194 billion in assets with activities in 15 countries.

In 2018, after battling another branch of the family over the use of the family name, the two factions announced they’d reached an agreement on the use of their respective brands, after litigation in 2015 from Benjamin concerning the Rothschild name in private banking.

Since 2015, Edmond de Rothschild has been run by Ariane, Benjamin’s wife. This was a decisive turn from the last will and testament of founder Mayer Amschel. He wrote famously in 1812 that the Rothschild business should pass between male heirs and “belong to my sons exclusively.”

The banker donated generously to Israel, including $22 million for the country’s effort to combat the coronavirus.

Reference: Wealth Advisor (Jan. 26, 2021) “Billionaire Benjamin De Rothschild, Heir To Storied Banking Fortune, Dies At 57”


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‘Real Housewives’ Ex under Temporary Conservatorship

Tom Girardi ’s brother, Robert, has been named to take care of his daily and personal activities. The news comes a month after Robert filed a petition to be in control of Tom’s estate and ongoing legal battles.

A conservatorship is when a judge appoints someone to manage an incapacitated person’s financial and personal affairs. The conservator’s duties include overseeing finances, establishing and monitoring the physical care of the ward and managing living arrangements.

Screen Rant’s article entitled “RHOBH: Erika’s Ex Tom Girardi Now Under Temporary Conservatorship Due to Illness” reports that Tom and Erika have been entangled in some legal drama since she filed for divorce in November of last year.

Despite the May-December romance (more than 30 years’ difference), they always appeared to be happy together. However, as they battle in divorce, their relationship has turned ugly. Tom Girardi refused to pay spousal support, but he has her involved in another legal issue: the couple is being sued by Tom’s former clients for embezzling over $2 million. The plaintiffs say that Tom and Erika stole the money to maintain their lavish lifestyle.

According to Us Weekly, the 81-year-old’s attorney Rudy Cosio said that Tom Girardi wouldn’t be able to attend the hearing because he suffered a medical emergency over the weekend. His brother filed a petition in January to control Tom’s estate and legal battle because he’s not currently well enough to handle this on his own. The petition was approved by the judge. Robert was given temporary conservatorship of his brother’s estate, as well as his daily activities and personal matters until the end of March. Another hearing is set for mid-March when the judge will decide whether to grant Robert’s other requests. These include granting him approval to place Tom in facility that treats patients with neurocognitive disorders like dementia.

Robert’s attorney released a statement to Us Weekly on the conservatorship and its urgent nature.

“There was an urgent need for Bob Girardi to have the power to engage counsel in the bankruptcy proceeding on his brother’s behalf, and Tom’s court-appointed counsel clearly agreed, as did the court today,” the statement read.

According to court filings, Robert admitted Tom’s health has been declining since Erika filed for divorce and the embezzlement lawsuit last year. Tom Girardi is currently unable to understand the ramifications of the bankruptcy filings pending against him and needs Robert to help him.

In December, it was reported that Tom was secretly hospitalized due to a serious illness. While Tom’s illness is not yet known, many are worried about his mental capabilities.

Reference: Screen Rant (Feb. 2, 2021) “RHOBH: Erika’s Ex Tom Girardi Now Under Temporary Conservatorship Due To Illness”


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Did Phil Spector Have an Estate Plan?

Music producer Phil Spector is regarded as one of the most influential producers of all time. He worked on iconic albums and songs of some of the biggest names in music history. Spector made his mark in the 1960s, producing more than 20 albums that scored on the Top 40 charts, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

Wealth Advisor’s recent article entitled “Phil Spector Net Worth: Music Producer Leaves Behind $50 Million Wealth.”

Phil Spector produced or helped produce hits like “Unchained Melody,” the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” and John Lennon’s “Imagine.” He worked with The Beatles, Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen and many others. As a result, his net worth could actually be larger, if royalties and current inflation rates are taken into account.

Spector, a Bronx, New York native, won the 1973 Grammy for album of the year for his work on “The Concert for Bangladesh” and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

Prior to his career as a producer, he was in the band, The Teddy Bears. He then started his own record label.

However, for all his success, his reputation took a hit when he was convicted of second-degree murder in 2009 for the fatal shooting of actress and model Lana Clarkson. She was found dead of a gunshot wound in February 2003 in Spector’s mansion in Alhambra, California. Spector was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison and would have been eligible for parole in 2025.

Phil married Veronica “Ronnie” Bennett in 1968 and divorced in 1974. Spector again tied the knot with Rachelle Short in 2006. In 2019, they also divorced.

After his second divorce, Spector’s mansion was put on the market for $3.9 million. It was originally listed for $5.5 million, but buyers were not taken with a property where a murder took place. The property has nine bedrooms, two full kitchens and a view of the San Gabriel Valley.

Spector was being treated at a Northern California hospital for COVID-19 before he died, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

Reference: Wealth Advisor (Jan. 19, 2021) “Phil Spector Net Worth: Music Producer Leaves Behind $50 Million Wealth”


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Estate Battle with Millions at Stake in New Orleans

Jessica Fussell Brandt filed an eviction petition against her daughter, Julie Hartline, her son-in-law Darryl Hartline and two grandchildren, Alexis and Zachary Hartline. She is pitted against them in a legal fight over an estate valued at more than $300 million, reports nola.com in the article “In Ray Brandt estate battle, widow tries to evict family from Old Metairie compound.”

Before auto magnate Ray Brandt died at age 72 from pancreatic cancer, the entire family shared a compound that includes two mansions located next to the Metairie Country Club. Brandt has been trying to sell the property which belongs to the estate, as its executrix. The family members living there don’t want to move, even taking down “For Sale” signs from the lawn.

Her attempt to evict them comes after she won a case in her attempt to maintain control of her late husband’s estate, which includes a large number of auto dealerships and collision centers across Louisiana and Mississippi.

On January 25, a Jefferson Parish judge invalidated the last will and testament that Ray Brandt signed just weeks before his death and another last will drafted in 2015. The district judge ruled that both last wills contained a flaw in how they were notarized: neither notarization specified that Ray Brandt, the witnesses, and the notary were together when it was signed.

The decision is being appealed, but it appears to leave the fate of Brandt’s empire to a last will he made in 2010. Unlike the others, this last will places Jessica Brandt in full control of his estate and trust, including the auto dealerships, until her death.

Ultimately, Ray Brandt directed that her grandchildren, who he legally adopted as adults before he died, would split the estate’s assets.

Despite issuing a statement saying that Jessica was “pleased with the prospect beginning the healing process,” after the Jefferson Parish decision, the eviction filing revealed that Jessica’s attorneys sent an email urging family members to leave the property by January 31, 2021.

Jessica made a statement that her wish to evict family members was a result of the multiple citations issued by Jefferson Parish for continuing violations at the compound. The latest one was for a trailer and mud buggy parked in a driveway on a vacant lot. She also said that the family members own two other homes, one in Metairie and one in Fort Beauregard.

The compound where the family settled seven years ago is estimated to be worth more than $8 million.

The heart of the dispute pits Jessica Brandt against Archbishop Rummel High School principal Marc Milano, who Ray Brandt named as a trustee to oversee the auto group and the rest of the estate until Jessica Brandt dies. Milano has accused Jessica of taking money from the estate and trying to claim an ownership interest in the dealership. She sued him for defamation.

Now the grandchildren have filed their own legal action, challenging a petition to put Ray Brandt’s last will into effect. Their argument is the trust that Ray Brandt set up in 2015 makes it clear that he meant for Milano to oversee the assets.

This estate battle will no doubt keep the Jefferson Parish courts and newspapers busy for some time. It’s a lesson to keep your family’s business private, by ensuring that your estate plan is properly prepared and up to date.

Reference: nola.com (Feb. 3, 2021) “In Ray Brandt estate battle, widow tries to evict family from Old Metairie compound”


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How Is Tony Bennett Doing with Alzheimer’s?

Ninety-four-year-old Tony Bennett recently made the announcement in AARP Magazine that he has had Alzheimer’s for last four years. The article details how the condition has impacted the singer’s memory and ability to recognize everyday objects.

BBC’s recent article entitled “Tony Bennett reveals he has Alzheimer’s” says that his wife Susan told the magazine that the singer is “not always sure where he is or what is happening around him.”

However, the iconic crooner has thus far been spared many of the worst characteristics of the disease – including the disorientation that can cause patients to wander from home and episodes of terror, rage, or depression.

Bennett has been a star since 1951, but some of his biggest successes have come in the last few years, including the chart-topping duet albums with Lady Gaga, which won a Grammy. The two stars recently completed a follow-up, which is due for release this year. The LP was recorded over two years, despite the fact that Bennett sometimes was “lost and bewildered” during the sessions.

However, singing frequently helps to subdue the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and Tony Bennett still rehearses twice a week with his longtime pianist Lee Musiker.

The singer’s neurologist Gayatra Devi told AARP that, prior to the pandemic, Bennett’s touring schedule “kept him on his toes and also stimulated his brain in a significant way”.

“Singing is everything to him. Everything,” added his wife. “It has saved his life many times.”

However, the decline of the live music industry has “been a real blow from a cognitive perspective,” said Devi.

“[Bennett’s] memory, prior to the pandemic, was so much better. And he is not alone. So many of my patients are negatively affected by the isolation, the inability to do the things that matter to them,” he said. “For someone like Tony Bennett, the big high he gets from performing was very important.”

Devi emphasized that Tony Bennett was still “doing so many things, at 94, that many people without dementia can’t do.

“He really is the symbol of hope for someone with a cognitive disorder,” he added.

Alzheimer’s is a condition which affects the brain and is by far the most common cause of dementia. Memory loss is the most common feature of dementia, but other symptoms can include changes to behavior, mood and personality, as well as becoming lost in familiar places or being unable to find the right word in a conversation.

Reference: BBC (Feb. 1, 2021) “Tony Bennett reveals he has Alzheimer’s”


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Did Larry King have an Estate Planning?

Larry King ’s health was not good the past few years before he died in the hospital last week. He was 87, with a history of heart trouble, a stroke and then he got sick with the coronavirus. He was also paying spousal support as part of a lengthy divorce negotiation.

This was his seventh wife who outlasted all the others. Since the divorce wasn’t final, she’ll inherit much of his estimated $50 million estate, says Wealth Advisor’s recent article entitled “Two Bankruptcies, Seven Wives: Larry King’s Estate Planning Miracle.”

The King of Talk wasn’t an early success. He was bankrupt before he was 30 and filed again at 45, when most successful people start eying early retirement. However, Larry King had large gambling debts, grand larceny charges for defrauding a business partner and many professional setbacks.

By the time he really became a household name on CNN, he’d already had five divorces to four women as well as one youthful annulment.

Under normal circumstances, this would mean depleted bank accounts, since the households multiplied, and income continues to be split among the exes. However, Larry King continued to work, and while each bankruptcy reset his official net worth to zero, every contract negotiation kept the income flowing.

Since he died before finalizing the divorce, his current wife Shawn is believed to receive everything not otherwise assigned in his will.

If the divorce were a done deal, she would have gotten a lump sum payment and $300,000 in annual support. Shawn had argued that she needed $1 million a year, but now it looks like she inherits everything.

Shawn lists $7 million in assets in her own name, including a house in Utah. That’s usually a good start to a divorce settlement division of property, but she wanted more because Larry was still working.

In fact, only last year, he signed a trial podcast deal worth at least $5 million.

Reference: Wealth Advisor (Jan. 25, 2021) “Two Bankruptcies, Seven Wives: Larry King’s Estate Planning Miracle”


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